Skip to main content

Full text of "Wesley and Methodism"

See other formats




Wesley and Methodism 

By F. J. Snell 

Previous Volume in this Series : — 

Cranmer and 

The Reformation in England. 
By Arthur D. Innes, M.A. 

For complete List see end. 


Wesley and 



F. J. Snell, M.A.(Oxon.) 

Author of 
'The Fourteenth Century" (Periods of European Literature) 

" Exspecta Dominum ; viriliter age ; noli diffidere ; 
noli discedere ; sed corpus et animam expone 
constanter pro gloria Dei.' ' — Imitatio Chrhti. 

Cited by Wetley in an eirenicon to the Clergy. 

New York. Charles Scribner's Sons 



What has been attempted in the present work ? 
Certainly, not a full and particular biography of 
John Wesley. He, it is true, is the central figure, 
and it is hoped that sufficient heed has been given 
to his personal actions and qualities to ensure a 
distinct, a recognisable, and — if only it might be ! — 
vivid portrait of that king of men. But a full and 
particular biography would call for more pages than 
go to compose the entire work. 

On the other hand, the aim has been something 
other than to string together a series of essays on 
various aspects of Methodism. While the writer has 
avoided Tyerman's method of strict chronological order 
— excellent though it is for some purposes — as involv- 
ing broken lights and insecure perspective, he has 
striven to mark the stages of Methodist evolution by 
treating in successive chapters characteristics of the 
movement, as they assumed exceptional importance at 
successive periods of Wesley's life. 

Naturally, however, my first care has been to pro- 
vide a fitting introduction for the man with whom the 
movement is inseparably associated. It may be, as 
Southey suggests, that, if Wesley had not existed, 


another prophet would have arisen, that Methodism 
was in the air, and certain to take shape one way or 
another. That may be, but he who shaped Methodism 
was John Wesley ; and if the movement was not an 
accident, neither was the man. Personalities are of 
secular growth. Long before Wesley appeared in the 
flesh, a thousand influences had been working to 
fashion his character and to steel his nerve. A 
biographer, however, can trace back those influences 
only a very little way. 

Wesley steps out of boyhood into University life, 
into the life of the world. His path is still dark. He 
has not found his mission. There follows an era of 
perturbation, which Bohler nearly but not quite ends, 
and Wesley begins to have inklings of his destiny. 
At this point it is natural to survey the spiritual con- 
ditions of his age and country. The remedy is next 
dealt with, and, after that, the scandal caused by its 
application. Then comes a statement of Wesley's 
special beliefs and of sundry controversies, occupying 
the early and middle periods of his larger ministry. 
The subject of organisation is reserved to the last, the 
matter having acquired peculiar interest in Wesley's 
age in relation to the Church of England, from which 
Methodism was slowly but surely drifting. If I have 
not been fastidious about the exact sequence of events, 
I have endeavoured to attain something like sequence 
of ideas — in other words, to record history philosophic- 

I cannot lay claim to much original research, but, 
by way of preparation, I studied for myself the 
fourteen tomes of Wesley's Works, besides plentiful 
odd volumes of miscellaneous Methodist literature. 


Recent numbers of the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine 
contain interesting and valuable papers by Mr. Telford 
and Mr. M'Cullagh, and I have to thank those very 
competent writers for more than one useful hint. I 
have, of course, laid under contribution the stock 
biographies of Wesley, as is shown by frequent refer- 
ences in the text ; and, lastly, I have drawn on my own 
general reading for the purpose of illumination. 




Preface V 



Epworth — Intellectual Parity — Puritan Antecedents — Dr. 
Annesley — John Wesley on the Puritans — The Enlistment of 
Samuel "Wesley — Aristocratic Connections — The Annesleys — 
Lord Mornington and Charles Wesley — ' ' Cyrus " and 
" Aspasia "—Family Pride— "Old Jeffrey "—Samuel Wesley 
as Parish Priest — The New Generation .... 1 



Boyhood — At the Charterhouse— Interview with Dr. Sacheverell 
— Fellow of Lincoln — University Manners — The Name 
"Methodist" — The Holy Club — A Family Difference- 
Colonisation of Georgia — The Wesleys' Missionary Enterprise 
— A Great Storm — Intercourse with the Moravians — Rough 
Quarters — The Hopkey Affair 24 



The Fear of Death— Peter Bohler — Justification by Faith — John 
Gambold — Hell — Methodist Type of Conversion — Wesley 
and Manzoni Compared — 24th May 1738 — Rudeness to William 
Law — Montaigne's Three Orders — The Church of England — 
Adventures of Bishop Wilson — Non-Residence — Dissent — 
Religion at Zero — The Apostle of England — Visit to Germany 49 





Glad Tidings — Love-Feasts — Suggestions of the Enemy — Real 
Methodist Love — George Whitefield — Girl's Clothes — 
Glamour of the Stage — Whitefield as Servitor — Conversion — 
Ordination — At dimmer — Popularity — Embarkation for 
America — Bishop Lavington — Cant — Methodist "Brides" — 
Elisabeth Wallbridge — Sydney Smith on Methodism — The 
Methodist " Confessional " 82 



Difficulties and Dangers — Harmless Bishops — Field-Preaching — 
At Kingswood — " Extraordinary Circumstances" — Causes — 
Posture of the Clergy — A Sermon and its Effects — Wesley's 
"Journalese" — Fury of Dissent — Brutal Conduct to 
Methodist Women — Methodist Valour — "No Popery!" — 
Methodism and the Fashionable World — Humphry Clinker 
—The King of Bath 107 



Middleton's Free Enquiry— A Mediaeval Miracle — An Eighteenth- 
Century Miracle — "Methodism Displayed" — Wesley on 
Miracles — Wesley on Enthusiasm — A Parallel from Plato — 
Sortilege — Karlstadt and Bell — Quietism and Methodism — 
Christian Perfection — Renan's Philosophy — Amusements- - 
Collision with the Moravians — Courtships — Marriage . . 151 



Out of Place — Charity — Principles of Methodism and tho Refor- 
mation Contrasted — Wesley no Sectary — Early Aspirations 
— Character and Constituents of Methodism — Origin of the 
Class-Meeting — Precedents — Lay-Preachers — Education — 
Hymnolo<;y — Methodism in America — Ordinations — 
Episcopal Resentment — Wesley in Old Age — Death and 
Burial— A Man 193 




Epworth — Intellectual Parity — Puritan Antecedents — Dr. 
Annesley — John Wesley on the Puritans — The Enlistment 
of Samuel Wesley — Aristocratic Connections — The Annesleys 
— Lord Mornington and Charles Wesley — " Cyrus " and 
"Aspasia" — Family Pride — "Old Jeffrey "—Samuel Wesley 
as Parish Priest— The New Generation. 

Lincolnshire, that paradise of graziers, owns no more 
fertile region than the "low levels," with their rich 
brown loam, of the Isle of Axholme. The word " isle " 
in this, as in other English place-names, — the Isle of 
Athelney, the Isle of Dogs, etc., — is reminiscent of 
earlier times and -vanished conditions. Already in the 
seventeenth century the skill and patience of a Danish 
financier had succeeded in transforming the king's 
chase. The malarial swamp had been witched into 
smiling pastures. The country had ceased to be 
"drowned" by the swelling Trent. Axholme, how- 
ever, was still an isle. It was a river-isle, a Meso- 
potamia, moated (as the Laureate has it) by Idle, and 


Don, and Torn, and Trent, — quite comedy names, when 
you think of it, — and the old Bykers dyke, knitting 
stream to stream. 

The metropolis of the isle is the little market-town 
of Epworth, peopled by some two thousand souls, and 
perched on a gentle slope. The church — nave, aisle, 
chancel, tower — is a cynosure for neighbouring eyes, 
but the representative pilgrim will turn, perhaps, first 
of all to the parsonage, the cradle of Methodism, the 
home of a family of genius. 

'Twas in 1696 that the Rev. Samuel Wesley entered 
on the living of Epworth, — given to him posthumously, 
as it were, by good Queen Mary, — and took possession 
of the rectory house. Not an imposing structure, it 
was built throughout of wood and plaster, had a thatch 
roof, and contained only seven rooms of any size. But, 
poor as it was, the house may have been an improve- 
ment on the mean cot, composed of reed and clay, 
wherewith Samuel Wesley and Susanna, his wife, had 
been forced to content themselves at South Ormsby. 

It may be questioned if in all Lincolnshire there 
could have been found an instance of more perfect 
mating than was offered by this worthy pair, and that 
whether we think of taste and mental vigour, or 
simply of family tradition and inherited station. 
Wife and husband drew their chief, and well-nigh 
their sole, happiness from the rigid performance of 
duty. That may stand for taste. Duty is to some 
minds what art or music is to others — the object of 
warm devotion and of infinite refinements. 

The rector of Epworth was at once a wit, a poet, 
and a scholar. His versified " Life of Our Lord Jesus 
Christ" pleased Queen Mary amazingly, or Epworth 


would never have acquired Samuel Wesley. Pope 
knew him well, and Pope, writing to Swift, observes, 
" I call him what he is — a learned man." Earlier he 
had honoured Wesley by coupling him with Watts in 
the Dunciad. Pope, however, became sensible of the 
injustice, and in the revised edition of the poem the 
names of both divines were discreetly expunged. 

Mrs. Wesley was not a classic, but on her devolved 
the education, in the widest sense, of her many 
children. For her own purpose she raised ipedagogy 
to a science; and her methods of instruction were 
brilliantly reflected in the careers of, at least, two 
of her sons. Nevertheless, there was something odd, 
something casual, something uncanny in her methods. 

Samuel, the eldest-born, never spoke till he was 
five. He " found his tongue " suddenly. Sam had 
behaved like most boys. He had got lost. His mother 
searched for him, and forgetting that he was dumb, 
kept calling on him to answer. All at once he replied, 
" Here I am, mother ! " From that hour Sam displayed 
aptitude in learning, as well as a singularly retentive 
memory ; and Mrs. Wesley, regarding him as a proof 
of the wisdom of not " forcing " her children, refrained, 
except in the case of the youngest, from teaching them 
even the alphabet till they were jive. She was a capable 
schoolmistress, however. " It is almost incredible," she 
says, " what a child may be taught in a quarter of a 
year by a vigorous application." 

Mrs. Wesley aimed not only at moulding the mind, 
but at forming the character ; and it is easy to trace 
in the ethics of the parsonage a distinct vein of 
Puritanism. To the horror of the modern Methodist, 
though not to the horror of John Wesley — filially 


inconsistent in this point alone — card-playing was 
admitted. But masquerades, balls, plays, operas, and 
similar diversions, were held as among the pomps 
and vanities of this wicked world, and accordingly 

This view of amusements was natural enough. Both 
Samuel and Susanna were of Puritan descent. Samuel's 
grandfather, Bartholomew Wesley (or Westley), had 
been ejected from his Dorsetshire living under the 
provisions of the Act of Uniformity. His father, 
John Wesley, had not only been ejected, but im- 
prisoned four times for preaching the doctrines of the 
Gathered Church. Impatient of the gag — " Woe is 
me," said he, " if I preach not the gospel ! " — he contem- 
plated a voyage to Maryland or Surinam, but finally 
settled down as minister of a conventicle at Poole. 

Mrs. Wesley's father, Dr. Samuel Annesley, was also 
of the Puritan way. He has been held a republican 
among republicans, and not without reason, if we are 
to judge from a sermon published by order of the 
Commons. But, according to his own statement, he 
had publicly expressed detestation of the "horrid 
murder" of the king. He had refused a horse for 
service at the battle of Worcester, and his disparage- 
ment of Cromwell had driven him from a fat living to 
the smallest parish in London. The Act of Uniformity 
drove him out of that. Annesley, however, did not 
lack means. He was able to support his large family 
— " two dozen or a quarter of a hundred " — in comfort, 
and to relieve his less fortunate brethren. " How 
many ministers had starved," says Williams, in his 
funeral sermon, " if Dr. Annesley had died thirty- four 
years since ! " 


This staunch Puritan was of fine presence and 
eloquent speech, and the graces of his style were cele- 
brated in pleasing verse by the author of Robinson 

Crusoe : 

" The Sacred Bow he so divinely drew, 
That every shaft both hit and overthrew. 
His native candour and familiar style, 
Which did so oft his hearers' hours beguile, 
Charmed us with godliness ; and while he spake, 
We loved the doctrine for the teacher's sake. 
While he informed us what those doctrines meant, 
By dint of practice more than argument, 
Strange were the charms of his sincerity, 
Which made his actions and his words agree." 

There has always been a prejudice among Church- 
folk against those whom Dr. Johnson, himself as pre- 
judiced as any, calls " sectaries." Devoted to the 
Church of England, and opposed to schism, if not to 
schismatics, John Wesley was never ashamed of his 
Puritan connections. He regarded the pick of the 
party as victims of oppression. Going back to the 
days of the Reformation, he says of Cartwright, "I look 
upon him and the body of Puritans in that age (to 
whom the German Anabaptists bore small resemblance) 
to have been both the most learned and most pious 
men that were then in the English nation. Nor did 
they separate from the Church, but were driven out, 
whether they would or no." In his Farther Appeal 
he writes with sturdy approbation of " that venerable 
man," Philip Henry. In his Thoughts upon Liberty, 
he dilates indignantly on the penalties inflicted on the 
heroes of Nonconformity. 

It may be well to mention how Samuel Wesley 
turned Churchman. As a youth, he studied at a 


Stepney Dissenting academy, and, whilst thus en- 
gaged, enjoyed the by no means contemptible privi- 
lege of listening to a homely divine, whom he calls, 
with loving familiarity, " Friend Bunyan." Wesley, 
however, was more than a student. He was " a dabbler 
in rhyme and faction," and applauded by his elders, 
sharpened his wit at the expense of Church and 
State. On that account he was chosen to answer some 
severe invectives against Dissent. 

This apparently congenial task led to an unexpected 
result. The political Dissenter saw the error of his 
ways. Saul became Paul, and the Anglican ministry 
gained a valuable recruit in the person of Samuel 
Wesley. Neither Samuel nor John was inclined to 
spare an antagonist, and to enter the lists against 
either was a prospect sufficiently terrible. The Wesley 
intellect was acutely logical ; and satire was their 
native element, from which, at the height of evangelical 
fervour, they escaped with difficulty. 

Samuel Wesley's inclination for polemics probably 
reached its acme during a fierce Lincolnshire election, in 
which he was compelled to " rat," in order to preserve 
a larger consistency and maintain inviolate his loyalty 
to the Church. The " Isle people " went the other way 
and revenged themselves on the parson by drumming, 
shouting, and firing off" pistols and guns, under the 
window of the room in which his wife lay after a 
recent confinement. This may be termed mob-argu- 
ment, and it contradicted, in every particular, the 
methods and manners of the inmates. 

The rector's children were carefully trained in the 
duties of their station and — please, remark ! — were 
taught politeness towards inferiors no less than towards 


their equals. In Susanna Wesley's girlhood, when the 
traditions of university education and State patronage 
still lingered in Nonconformist circles, the social dis- 
parity between the Anglican clergy and their rivals 
was hardly perceptible ; and, in point of fact, the 
names of both husband and wife — the former slightly 
modified — adorn the pages of Burke. Rather curiously, 
the aristocratic connection is, in each case, Hibernian. 

Mrs. Wesley was related, though not in any near 
degree, to the Earl of Anglesey, a statesman whom 
Bishop Burnet describes as " a man of grave deport- 
ment," but who, in spite of gravity, " stuck at nothing, 
and was ashamed of nothing." The common ancestor 
of this nobleman and Dr. Samuel Annesley was Robert 
Annesley, Esq., of Newport-Pagnell, who, in the reign 
of Elizabeth, aided in suppressing the rebellion of the 
Earl of Desmond. Rewarded with lands in Ireland, he 
settled in that country as an "undertaker," i.e. as a 
coloniser. His son, Francis Annesley, was created by 
Charles 1. Baron Mountnorris and Viscount Valentia in 
the peerage of Ireland. 

On the outbreak of the Civil War, Arthur, Robert 
Annesley's grandson, first took the side of the king, 
but afterwards passed over to the Parliament. At the 
critical juncture of the Restoration, he not only 
supported Monk, but was his principal coadjutor in 
the House of Commons. For this important and 
dangerous service — he had succeeded to the Irish titles 
and estates in 1660 — he was created Baron Annesley 
and Earl of Anglesey in the peerage of England. 

Bishop Burnet notwithstanding, Lord Anglesey was 
no worthless renegade. As Arthur Annesley he had 
obtained possession of the original MS. of the " Eikon 


Basilike," and, what was more, had enjoyed the friend- 
ship of him who answered it. When Milton, "fallen 
on evil days," published his History of England, the 
public licenser cut out the portion relating to the Long 
Parliament. The author applied to Lord Anglesey, 
who exerted his influence, and with such effect that 
the description was reinserted, and the work published 

Thus the former Commonwealth man did not forget 
old friends. Indeed, Lord Anglesey is said to have 
chosen his domestic chaplains from the ranks of the 
ejected. Nor was he indifferent to his cousin, Dr. 
Annesley, whom he advised, but advised in vain, to 
conform. Financially, the point was of small con- 
sequence. Annesley, says one of his sons-in-law, " had 
a good estate and scorned to be rich while any man 
was poor." Neither peer nor preacher, however, 
appears to have done anything for the Wesleys — a 
circumstance, to a biographer, very odd. 

When the Wesleys had been for some years at 
Epworth, a Mr. Garrett Wesley, who had landed estates 
in Ireland, sent to inquire of the rector whether among 
his sons there was any of the name of Charles. Should 
that be so, he was willing to adopt him and appoint 
him his heir. The decision was referred to Charles 
Wesley, then a Westminster scholar, by whom the 
offer was declined. Mr. Garrett Wesley chose in his 
stead a scion of the house of Colley, and a maternal 
relation of his own. This Richard Colley Wesley 
became Barron Mornington, and his son, Garrett, 
advanced to the dignity of an earldom, was the well- 
known composer. 

In his old age Charles Wesley, who had made, as 


his brother thought, such a fair escape, came to know 
the second Lord Mornington; and the peer-musician 
used to engage in weekly practices at his friend's 
house with Wesley's talented sons, Charles and Samuel. 
He both loved and revered their father, and, writing 
to him, observes, " I can with truth say that I esteem 
the commencement of your acquaintance one of the 
happiest moments of my life." 

Even this coincidence does not exhaust the network 
of relationships. The Earl of Mornington's godmother 
was a Mrs. Delany, who had been Mrs. Pendarvis. 
The lady's maiden name was Granville, and she was 
a niece of the first Lord Lansdowne. Now the " Cyrus " 
of her Correspondence, which was published, with her 
Autobiography, in 1862, has been ascertained to have 
been John Wesley, the collegian. Her own pseudonym, 
as Mrs. Pendarvis, was " Aspasia." 

In 1733 she wrote from Dangan, one of the Mor- 
nington estates: "As to the ridicule that Cyrus has 
been exposed to, I do not at all wonder at it. Religion 
in its plainest dress suffers daily from the insolence 
and ignorance of the world. How much, then, can 
that person escape who appears openly in its cause ? " 
" Aspasia's " last letter to " Cyrus " is dated 1734. The 
year after, Wesley departed for Georgia, and " Cyrus " 
and " Aspasia " corresponded no more. 

The Earl of Mornington, it is hardly necessary to 
recall, was the father of the Marquess Wellesley and 
the Duke of Wellington. The Marquess rid himself 
of the Wesley name and the Wesley estates. The 
younger and more famous brother continued to be 
known as " Arthur Wesley " till he was thirty. After- 
wards he appears to have acquiesced in the change of 


nomenclature ; and in the Army List of 1801 his name 
is given, for the first time, as " Wellesley." It would 
be of some interest to learn the motive of the change. 
Was the name " Wesley," the condition of fortune, too 
mean in itself, or had it become debased by its asso- 
ciations? Wellesley is certainly the more sounding 

The Epworth family was miserably poor. The head 
of the house was imprisoned for debt, and owed his 
release from severe difficulties to public subscription 
organised by Archbishop Sharp. But, in the midst of 
their troubles, the Wesleys preserved their self-respect, 
and even indulged a little pride. This was especially 
the case with reference to matrimonial alliances. 

" My brother Charles," says John Wesley, " had an 
attachment in early youth to an amiable girl of inferior 
birth. This was much opposed by my mother and her 
family, who mentioned it with concern to my uncle. 
Finding from my father that this was the chief objec- 
tion, my uncle only replied, ' Then there is no family 
blood ? I hear the girl is good, but of no family.' 
' Nor fortune either,' said my mother. He made no 
reply, but sent my brother a sum of money as a 
wedding-present, and, I believe, sincerely regretted that 
he was ultimately crossed in his inclination." *■ 

1 Charles, however, duly profited by the lesson. When his brother 
John was old enough to know better, he conceived the idea of uniting 
himself in the bands of matrimony to a Mrs. Grace Murray, described 
as a "very pious and respectable woman," but not his equal in rank. 
Mr. Charles took the matter adroitly in hand, and, with Mr. White- 
field as an ally, effected the marriage of the lady with a Mr. Bennett, 
one of the preachers, during her lover's absence. On being informed of 
his fate, the disappointed swain ruefully confessed that "the sons of 
Zeruiah were too strong for him. " 


Probably it was pride, quite as much as politics, that 
rendered the Wesleys unpopular in Lincolnshire. Their 
most reputable neighbours — small landowners or yeo- 
men of parsimonious habits — were not of the class 
the clergy prefer to visit with ; and it is clear that on 
social matters the Wesleys (or, perhaps, the Annesleys) 
had very positive notions. When the burning of the 
rectory caused a temporary separation of the family, 
Mrs. Wesley regretted the associations amongst which 
her children were thrown, and which led, among other 
disasters, to the acquisition of a faulty accent. The 
regret was intelligible enough in a careful mother, but 
such fastidiousness could not, in the nature of things, 
ingratiate her with the uneducated and scornful boors, 
who drummed, and shouted, and fired off pistols and 

The fire itself, preceded by a rehearsal, was, there is 
good reason to believe, the work of an incendiary. 
John Wesley, then a child of five, always regarded it 
as one of the capital events of his life, and well he 
might, seeing that he narrowly escaped an untimely 

" God saved him," says his father, " by almost a 
miracle. He only was forgot by the servants in the 
hurry. He ran to the window towards the yard, 
stood upon a chair, and cried for help. There were 
now a few people gathered, one of whom, who loves 
me, helped another up to the window. The child, 
seeing a man come into the window, was frightened, and 
ran away to get to his mother's chamber. He could 
not open the door, so ran back again. The man was 
fallen down from the window, and all the bed and 
hangings in the room where he was were blazing. 


They helped up the man the second time, and poor 
Jacky leaped into his arms, and was saved. I could 
not believe it till I had kissed him two or three times." 

When, in later life, Wesley became saturated with 
the idea of hell, he looked back to this incident as 
emblematical of another conflagration and another 
escape. Under one of his portraits is engraved a 
house in flames, and beneath that a motto, to Wesley 
endlessly suggestive — " Is not this a brand plucked out 
of the burning ? " 

The restoration of the parsonage brought with it, out- 
wardly, an almost idyllic change. Instead of " foul 
beasts " and " Erymanthean boars," we hear of fronts 
planted with wall-fruit; of mulberry trees, cherry 
trees, and pear trees set in the garden, and of walnuts 
in the adjoining croft. The sequel, however, was not 
quite in accord with the tranquillity that " the purest 
of all human pleasures " might seem to promise. On 
December 1, 1716, twenty years after the first arrival 
of the Wesleys at Epworth, the peace of the new home 
was effectually broken by the inauguration of a series 
of disturbances supposed to be supernatural. 

The noises — there was more hearing than seeing — 
were multiform, or, at least, sounded differently to 
different ears. Sometimes they resembled " the dismal 
groans of one in extremes, at the point to die." At 
other times, the gobblings of a turkey-cock furnished 
a more accurate simile. When the visitant approached, 
the air was charged with iEolian music. The observers 
attained to a remarkable degree of precision in defining 
their impressions. A vivid description was that of a 
man mounting the stairs in jackboots, and trailing a 
nightgown after him. 


To recount all the phenomena would be pleasant, 
but unscrupulous. Hardly any trick or device that 
could mystify the mind or work upon the feelings was 
omitted. The rector's characteristic knock "three- 
times-three " was mimicked, and one Sunday at dinner 
his trencher frolicked on the table. His daughter 
Nancy was sitting on a bed, when it was lifted 
repeatedly to a considerable height. Jumping off, she ex- 
claimed, " Surely Old Jeffrey won't run away with me ! " 

" Old Jeffrey " was the nickname bestowed on the 
ghost, and, in course of time, when it was found that 
no harm resulted, the expression passed into a term 
of endearment. The younger children are in bed. 
They hear the soft tapping. But they are not 
frightened. They only say to each other, " Old 
Jeffrey is coming ; it is time to go to sleep." And, to 
beat all, little Kezzy amuses herself by chasing the 
strange noises from room to room and stamping with 
her childish foot in order to attract a response. 

Altogether, it was an extraordinary affair, and one 
that cannot be explained by credulity or superstition in 
the Wesleys. The rector began by scolding his chil- 
dren, but afterwards, by dint of experience, succumbed 
to their belief. The strong-minded Emilia, in a letter, 
delivers herself of the following remarks : — 

" I am so far from being superstitious that I was too 
much inclined to infidelity, so that I heartily rejoice at 
having such an opportunity of convincing myself, past 
doubt or scruple, of the existence of some things 
besides those we see. A whole month was sufficient 
to convince anybody of the reality of the thing, and 
to try all ways of discovering any trick, had it been 
possible for any such to have been used." 


What interpretation can be given of the events ? 
To this question several answers have been returned. 
Southey very properly rejects ordinary and obvious 
explanations — rats, collusion, or legerdemain — as in- 
adequate to the circumstances, and seeks repose in 
the famous intimation to Horatio — "There's more in 
heaven and earth than is dreamed of in your philo- 
sophy." Isaac Taylor favours the belief that the 
actors were neither good angels nor evil angels, but 
silly elemental spirits, like Queen Titania or Queen 
Mab, holding high holiday. 

This is certainly a bold attempt to dispose of a 
problem that arises in connection with so many well- 
authenticated ghost stories — their apparently motive- 
less character. What is the use of ghosts " hanging 
around " in the way they so often do ? Southey 
hints, to convince materialists of the existence of an 
invisible world. Perhaps. Emilia Wesley was " inclined 
to infidelity." On this assumption the Epworth fairies 
did their work well, and need not be called silly. 

Coleridge takes quite another line, and interprets 
after this fashion. " What was it ? Why, a contagious 
nervous disease, the acme or intensest form of which is 
catalepsy." Coleridge's opinion is entitled to profound 
respect, but this particular view strikes one as more 
feasible than probable, as an anodyne to lull perplexity 
and save trouble. It is very well to talk of catalepsy, 
but there could not have been much of catalepsy in 
Kezzy hilariously pursuing Mr. Ghost. Truly, it is a 
great crux. 

The episode of Old Jeffrey's antics has been referred 
to at some length, because it helps to account for a 
notable trait in the character of John Wesley. The 


eighteenth century prided itself on being an age of 
reason, and yet whole pages of John Wesley's Journal 
are filled with reports of special providences, appari- 
tions, magic mirrors, and the like. Wesley was 
savingly convinced of witchcraft. With him, not to 
believe in witchcraft was to count yourself out of the 
number of true believers in the Bible. 

What did John Wesley make of the Epworth 
mystery ? Well, that excellent divine had a portable 
deus (or, rather, diabolus) ex machina, whose office 
it was to extricate him from all possible intellectual 
mazes and cataleptic nightmares. Whenever anything 
untoward happened, which a purely physiological 
interpretation would have ascribed to catalepsy or 
hysteria, — induced perhaps by his own oratory, — 
Wesley, nimbly surmounting secondary causes, flew 
to the prime author of that and every woe — to Satan. 
He did so in this instance. 

Frankly, John Wesley believed that " Old Jeffrey " 
was a messenger of Satan, sent to buffet his father. 
It appears that Mrs. Wesley had declined to say Amen 
to the prayer for the king, and her husband, nettled 
by her refusal, had vowed to desert his family. 
According to John Wesley's hermeneutics the raison 
d'etre of " Old Jeffrey " was to bring the Rev. Samuel 
Wesley to a proper frame of mind respecting that 
rash vow. 

If the rector of Epworth had any important defect, 
it was harshness, imperiousness. He had the qualities 
of a martinet. One habit for which he has been 
generally commended was that of systematic pastoral 
visitation. He made the tour of his large parish, 
closely interrogating the members of his scattered flock 


as to their state of mind. Probably Wesley was 
conscientious enough to present himself in this 
capacity, even more unpopular than that of tithe- 
collector, to all classes of his parishioners ; but, com- 
monly speaking, it is one of the burdens of the poor to 
have to endure the inquisitions of " callow clergymen " 
— Samuel Wesley distrusted " callow clergymen " — 
and fussy district visitors, anxious to certify that they 
are truly resigned to their numerous ills. 

Samuel Wesley's style of intercourse aimed at what 
he calls " well - ordered familiarity." This clever 
phrase no doubt signified that he was, or tried to be, 
extremely pleasant to Jack, and Tom, and Dick, and 
Toby, but that he kept his place, and took care that 
they kept theirs. One sees a reflexion of this "well- 
ordered familiarity " in John Wesley's relations with his 
preachers. In his letters, and doubtless in his personal 
greetings, he addressed them as " Dear Sammy " and 
" Dear Billy," but let any of them — William Moore, 
for instance — show symptoms of independence, and 
Wesley writes of him as a castaway. The man's 
heart, he thinks, is not right with God. 

At Epworth the parish clerk appears at times to 
have got out of hand. Indeed, it may be predicated of 
parish clerks as a body that they believed in them- 
selves, and, in their official character, often served 
better as illustrations of familiarity than of good 
order. Did Samuel Wesley ever indulge his sense of 
humour at the expense of propriety ? There is some 
doubt about this. It has been ascertained that Stern- 
hold and Hopkins, execrable as was their metrical 
psalter, did not furnish opportunity for that possibly 
mythical dialogue, which, nevertheless, Adam Clarke 


avers he received from Samuel Wesley's son. The 
minister having read, 

"Like to an owl in an ivy-bush," 

his satellite, out of the recess of Mr. Wesley's late wig, 
is said to have responded with an approach to literal 

" That fearsome thing, am I." 

However that may be, the worthy clerk did not stick 
at superseding " Grandsire Sternhold " in his own 
favour. One Sunday he celebrated King William's 
return to London by announcing in loud tones, " Let 
us sing to the praise and glory of God, a hymn of my 
own composing : 

" King William is come home, come home, 
King William home is come ! 
Therefore let us together sing 
The hymn that's called Te D'um." 

The congregation at Epworth had " a strange genius 
at understanding nonsense," and, for the sake of peace 
and quietness, Samuel Wesley postponed his own 
liking for anthems and cathedral music to the taste of 
his parishioners. But he resolutely set himself to 
educate the people in music and morals, and at last 
had the gratification of witnessing a marked improve- 
ment in both these respects. When Dr. Clarke visited 
Epworth, he questioned the old folks about the father 
of the Wesleys, and found lingering among them the 
memory of a beloved and venerable clergyman, who 
had helped and instructed them in their youth. On 
the whole, Samuel Wesley seems to have justified 
the younger Samuel's description : 


"A parish priest — not of the pilgrim kind, 
But fixed and faithful to the post assigned — 
Through various scenes, with equal virtue trod, 
True to his oath, his order, and his God." 

Mrs. Wesley thought her gifted husband thrown 
away on such a place as Epworth, and the fact that he 
was sent again and again to Convocation proves that 
he stood well in the estimation of his brother-clergy. 
But he never obtained higher preferment, and died in 
his country parish, April 25, 1735, at the age of 

The exact number of his immediate descendants is 
somewhat doubtful. The rector himself speaks of 
" a numerous offspring, eighteen or nineteen children," 
but several died early. John Wesley describes his 
mother as serenely inditing letters, transacting busi- 
ness, and holding conversations in the midst of her 
thirteen children. But there must have been further 
gaps, as only ten — three sons and seven daughters — 
arrived at maturity. Of these John and Charles were 
the most conspicuous, but others of the family had 
strange, eventful histories, which might well occupy 
our attention. Samuel and Hetty, as poets, have a 
distinct claim to be remembered. 

For one year after quitting his mother's side, and 
before going to school, Samuel had a tutor, one John 
Holland, "whose kindness," writes the rector to his 
son, " you bear on your knuckles." Holland was a 
rakish young clergyman, who had been turned out of 
thirteen posts, had ruined his father, and was probably 
employed by the Wesleys out of charity to his mother. 
The parson tells a weird story of this scapegrace. 

" Your old schoolmaster was making homewards 


about a month or six weeks since, and got within ten 
or a dozen miles of Epworth, where he fell sick out of 
rage or despair. He was taken home in a common 
cart, and has been almost mad ever since. Peter 
Foster, the Anabaptist preacher, gave him twopence to 
buy him some brandy, and thought he was very 
generous. His mother fell a-cursing God when she 
saw him. She has just been with me to beg the 
assistance of the parish for him. What think you of 
this example ? " 

Samuel entered Westminster School in 1704, at the 
age of fourteen. Mrs. Wesley, mindful perhaps of the 
"example," continued to watch over him. "Have a 
care," she writes. " Stay at the third glass. Consider 
you have an obligation to strict temperance which all 
have not — I mean your designation to holy orders." 
It was no doubt a great thing for both father and 
mother to see their firstborn son installed as a 
King's scholar, but it is clear that they were infinitely 
more concerned about his spiritual interests than about 
either his intellectual progress or his worldly advance- 

Westminster was then easily first of the English 
public schools, and abounded in old and inspiring 
associations. The dean, Thomas Sprat, conceived a 
high opinion of young Wesley, whom he drove with 
him to his country house at Bromley. The protege, 
however, was not grateful for these attentions, and 
complained that they distracted him from study 
proper. "He has chosen me out of all the scholars 
that I should read books to him at night — hoarse and 
shortsighted me!" 

In 1711 the burdensome old gentleman died, and 


was succeeded by the celebrated Dr. Atterbury. The 
same year Samuel proceeded to Christ Church, Oxford, 
where, a true Wesley, he plunged into the Whistonian 
controversy regarding the " Ignatian Epistles." Having 
taken his degree, he was ordained and returned to 
Westminster as usher or third master. 

Atterbury and he became fast friends, and as he 
was on easy terms with Edward Harley, Earl of 
Oxford, and with literary "stars," — Pope and Prior, 
Addison and Swift, — Samuel Wesley doubtless antici- 
pated a brilliant future. It never came. That friend- 
ship with Atterbury stood in the way of promotion, 
and for the rest of his life, and indeed after his death, 
Wesley laboured under the suspicion of Jacobitism. 
His daughter expressly affirmed that he was a Jacobite, 
but John Wesley as expressly denied the allegation, 
which he attributed to ignorance, to misconception of 
the family politics, and, above all, to confusion of the 
terms " Tory " and " Jacobite." 

In a letter to the Gentleman's Magazine, December 
24, 1785, the only surviving brother discusses the topic 
at large. He observes : " Most of those who gave him 
this title did not distinguish between a Jacobite and 
a Tory, whereby I mean, ' one that believes God, not 
the people, to be the origin of all civil power.' In this 
sense he was a Tory ; so was my father ; so am I. 
But I am no more a Jacobite than I am a Turk; 
neither was my brother. I have heard him over and 
over again disclaim that character." 

Be that as it may, Samuel Wesley never attained 
what was perhaps the summit of his ambition. He 
never became Dean of Westminster. He never became 
even headmaster. After nearly twenty years spent 


in that institution, he migrated to Blundell's School, 
Tiverton, where he felt himself in a " desert," and was 
vastly unpopular both in the school and in the town. 
A rhyming chronicle of the masters bans him as 

"Curst with excessive pride." 
The Wesleys, as we have seen, were proud. On the 
other hand, Samuel Wesley was an ideal character to 
fail in a country town. Endowed with taste and 
sensibility, and tenderly alive to the decencies of 
religion, he must have abhorred the usages of a place, 
where a gentleman-jockey was more a hero than him- 
self, and the clergy were evidently so-so. 1 

Although he was so accomplished a scholar, Samuel 
Wesley's literary remains are all comprised in a 
slender volume of poems. His muse is part sacred, 
part satirical. Some of his hymns are sung to this 
day. His talent for satire may be inferred from his 
epigram on the cenotaph erected in Westminster 
Abbey, A.D. 1721, as a memorial of the creator of 
Hudibras : 

" While Butler, needy wretch ! was yet alive, 
No generous patron would a dinner give ; 
See him, when starved to death and turn'd to dust, 
Presented with a monumental bust ! 
The poet's fate is here in emblem shewn — 
He asked for bread, and he received a stone." 

1 In 1751, twelve years after his brother had quitted, not only his 
"desert" in Devonshire, but earth's "howling wilderness," John 
Wesley visited Tiverton, and this is what he writes: "There was a 
sermon preached at the Old Church before the trustees of the school. 
At half an hour past twelve the morning service began, but such insuf- 
ferable noise and confusion I never saw before in a place of worship — 
no, not even in a Jewish synagogue. The clergy set the example, 
laughing and talking during the greater part of the prayers and 


Samuel Wesley died at Tiverton, in 1739, at the age 
of forty-nine ; and a florid epitaph in St. George's 
Churchyard reminded, and reminds, town and gown of 
the many virtues of the dead schoolmaster. 

Mehetabel, or Hetty, was the fourth and far the 
brightest of the septette of sisters. She was also her 
father's favourite. When only eight, she could read 
the Greek Testament with ease, but hours in the 
library did not take from her natural lightheartedness. 
She grew up a pretty girl, with charming ways, and 
lovers were legion. But, in a question of marriage, 
the Wesleys were not complaisant. Then it was 
Mother, then Brother John, who interfered, and, of 
course, the girls made wretched matches. 

In Hetty's case, the Rev. Samuel Wesley himself 
non-suited. A member of the legal profession applied 
for her, and was candidly informed that he must wait 
until inquiries had been made as to his character. 
The result was unfavourable. The suitor was 
adjudged " an unprincipled lawyer," and his application 
rejected. What followed? Only this — Hetty left 
Epworth, and married a plumber and glazier of 
London, called Wright. 

It has been mooted that this marriage was forced on 
Hetty by her father, but unless there was more in the 
case than has ever leaked out, he had no conceivable 
motive for adopting such a course. The man was 
poor ; he was uneducated ; and Hetty's uncle, who 
apparently did not mind mesalliances, enabled him to 
set up in business by a gift of five hundred pounds. 
The probability is that Hetty married him out of 
pique, and that her father knew nothing of the rash 
step until it was irrevocable. 


Of course she was thoroughly miserable, but she 
made Wright a better wife than he deserved, and 
lavished her love upon him, just as if he were a 
king, or, perhaps, a saint. He was no saint. He spent 
his nights in public-houses, and the graceful poetess 
sought to recall him to his duty by warm expressions 
of conjugal devotion : 

"For though thine absence I lament, 
When half the lonely night is spent ; 
Yet when the watch or early morn 
Has brought me hopes of thy return, 
I oft have wiped these watchful eyes, 
Concealed my cares, and curb'd my sighs, 
In spite of grief, to let thee see 
I wore an endless smile for thee." 

Hetty lost all her children, killed, as she believed, 
by the white lead of her husband's trade ; and, wailing 
one of her dying blossoms, she would gladly have 
shared its fate. When, at a later period, she was 
consoled in some measure by the ministrations of her 
brothers, she remarked with native impetuosity, "I 
have long ardently wished for death, because, you 
know, we Methodists always die in a transport of joy." 
But Hetty never realised this compensation. In 1750, 
when all London was in a frenzy through a succession 
of earthquakes, she passed away in darkness, doubt, 
and fear. 



Boyhood — At the Charterhouse — Interview with Dr. Sacheverell 
— Fellow of Lincoln — University Manners — The Name 
"Methodist" — The Holy Club — A Family Difference- 
Colonisation of Georgia — The Wesleys' Missionary Enter- 
prise — A Great Storm — Intercourse with Moravians — 
Rough Quarters — The Hopkey Affair. 

John, the second son and seventh child of Samuel 
Wesley's "numerous offspring," — of such "offspring," 
that is to say, as survived and can be accounted for, — 
was born on the 17th of June 1703. As a child, 
he was docile and obedient, and knew the Holy 
Scriptures. His mother taught him that the essence 
of religion lay in keeping the Commandments, and he 
kept them to such purpose that, when he was only 
eight, his father allowed him to communicate. 

Even after conversion, John Wesley looked back 
to the first ten years of his life with considerable 
approval. He believed that, so far, he had not sinned 
away the washing of the Holy Ghost given him in 
baptism. It is true that he neither understood nor 
remembered what was said to him about inward 
obedience. He was ignorant of the true meaning of 
the law, and still more ignorant of the gospel of 



Christ. But, as regards outward duties, he welcomed 
instruction, and that is pretty well for a boy under ten. 

The next six or seven years were spent at school, 
and to this period of his life he looked back with 
some, though not utter, dissatisfaction. He neglected 
outward duties, and, though never involved in public 
scandal, committed outward sins. He had faulty ideas 
of the conditions of salvation, and he had a slight 
taint of Pharisaism, but he still read the Scriptures, 
still said his prayers, and that is pretty well for a boy 
under twenty. 

Rising amid the cries of London, of which, in the 
eighteenth century, there was a handsome variety, stood 
a building which was at once a seminary for youth and 
a haven of repose for decayed single gentlemen. The 
master, or head of the pensioners — the now venerable 
Thomas Burnet — was not only a man of parts, but a 
man of character. Thirty years before, he had defied 
a Romanist king and a "hanging" judge — even 
Jeffreys. When Burnet died, as he did in 1715, he 
was succeeded by Dr. John King, of whom John 
Byrom, poet, writes in his Journal : " Went with 
Massey and Dr. King, Master of the Charterhouse, and 
one Mr. Nichols to the Horn Tavern; Dr. King had 
Thomas a Kempis always in his pocket." It is 
perhaps more than a coincidence that, at Oxford, John 
Wesley had, or thought he had, Thomas a Kempis, if 
not always, yet often in his pocket. 

The headmaster of the school was Dr. Thomas 
Walker. An old gown-boy, he had received the 
appointment in 1679. It was a good appointment. 
The best Latin scholar of the day — Dr. Davies, 
President of Queen's College, Cambridge — was a pupil 


of Walker's, and he must be allowed some credit in 
respect of a pair of famous essayists — Addison and 
Steele. The usher, another old gown-boy, was Dr. 
Andrew Tooke, Gresham Professor of Geometry, 
Fellow of the Royal Society, and author of the 
Pantheon, which, with its cargo of heathen gods, 
sailed through two-and-twenty editions. This versatile 
man succeeded Dr. Walker in the headmastership, 
but he had to wait. Addison's schoolmaster joined to 
his other qualifications that of firmness, and he stuck 
to his post till he was eighty-two. 

Among Samuel Wesley's varied accomplishments 
was the useful art of "making interest." It is his 
own phrase for a practice in which he saw no sin and 
much sense. He "made interest" with Queen Mary, and 
got Epworth. He " made interest " with the Duke of 
Buckingham, and got his son John into the Charter- 
house. The duke and duchess, between them, had 
subscribed £27, 17s. 6d. to repair the damage of the 
first Epworth fire — what I have called " the rehearsal." 
After the second fire, the rector, mindful of past bene- 
fits, considered it proper to send his Grace a particular 
account of the event. It was particular, among other 
reasons, inasmuch as it told all about poor Jacky and 
his marvellous escape from the flames, as recorded, in 
the very terms of the epistle, in the opening chapter of 
the present work. The adventure was no doubt well 
within the nobleman's recollection, when, in January 
1714, he availed himself of his prerogative as Governor 
of the Charterhouse to nominate John Wesley as 
gown- boy. 

Probably the years passed at school were the only 
years of his long and arduous career wherein Wesley 


might have claimed genuine popularity. He was a 
thoroughly healthy boy, and, unlike Shelley, could 
submit to a certain amount of " fagging " and " bully- 
ing" without losing any of his spirit or morbidly 
fancying that the world was in arms against him. 
Wesley had not yet to encounter that most odious 
and intractable of adverse influences — Prejudice. He 
might have to accept, now and then, a cuff from a 
bigger boy; and the bigger boys made a point of 
helping themselves to the smaller boys' allowance of 
meat. But these attentions, shared by all in turn, 
did not sting. " From ten to thirteen or fourteen," 
he says, " I had little but bread to eat, and not plenty 
of that. I believe this was so far from hurting me 
that it laid the foundation of lasting health." His 
father had enjoined on him to run three times round 
the green every morning. This injunction he obeyed, 
and the systematic exercise, it is natural to suppose, 
assisted the enforced abstinence in building up an 
exceptionally tough constitution. 

When Wesley became one of the bigger boys, he 
did not bully — he amused. Once Dr. Tooke had lost 
his flock, and could not tell where to find them. They 
had completely vanished from the fold, or playground. 
However, they were not doing much harm. They 
were in the schoolroom, and John Wesley was telling 
them stories. Tooke was delighted, and encouraged 
the narrator to tell more stories to more audiences. 

Wesley's enemies twisted this straightforward anec- 
dote into a dishonest legend. They declared that 
when Tooke asked him why he mixed with boys so 
much younger than himself, he made answer, " Better 
to reign in hell than serve in heaven." Let us dismiss 


this reply as apocryphal, as a libel. Wesley was 
never, in any low or vulgar sense, ambitious. Ambi- 
tion, however, has been defined as "the last infirmity 
of noble minds," and somehow this episode of school- 
life, with its suggestion of personal authority, irre- 
sistibly impresses you as a foretokening of the Holy 
Club, of the Yearly Conference, and of Wesley's life- 
long papacy among the people called Methodists. 

The Charterhouse, in its rough way, had been kind 
to Wesley, and Wesley was devoted to the Charter- 
house. In 1727 he was one of the stewards at the 
annual dinner of Old Carthusians. Later develop- 
ments may have weakened the bond between school 
and scholar, but at heart Wesley was firm in his 
allegiance. In May 1764 he breakfasted with a Mr. 
Fielding, near Barnard Castle. "I found," he says, 
" we had been schoolfellows at the Charterhouse, and 
he remembered me, though I had forgot him." In 
1768 there was another meeting. " I was well pleased 
to lodge at a gentleman's, an old schoolfellow, half a 
mile from the town. What a dream are the fifty or 
sixty years that have slipped away since we were at 
the Charterhouse ! " Twenty years more, and the old 
schoolfellow and his wife had been laid to rest. 

After Wesley had turned fifty, it was his custom to 
stroll through the Charterhouse once a year, com- 
paring things present with things past. To many the 
comparison would have been sad, but it was not sad 
to Wesley, a gourmand for retrospect. Hence it was 
not, as Southey opines, a question of pressing on to the 
goal. It was a question of habitual serenity, enabling 
him to indulge in cheerful reflections. 

In August 1757 he took a walk in the Charter- 


house, and wondered that all the quadrangles and 
buildings, and especially the schoolboys, looked so 
small. " But this," he says, " is easily accounted for. 
I was little myself when I was at school, and measured 
all about me by myself." He goes on to suggest that 
this may be the reason why Homer, and Virgil, and 
many other persons of less note, have imagined that 
men in former ages were larger and stronger than 
those of the present generation. Yes, or there may 
have been a notion that very tall men represent the 
normal growth, just as centenarians have been said 
to represent the normal span of life. Anyhow, 
Wesley's desultory reflections are very happy — much 
better than melancholy discourse about hopes, and 
illusions, and ambitions, which, as a boy, he had prob- 
ably been too sensible to entertain. That was the worst 
of Wesley — he was always so sensible. Now people in 
general are not sensible, and revel in inconsistencies. 

From the Charterhouse Wesley proceeded to Christ 
Church, Oxford. This was in 1720, so that he was 
still a mere boy — in fact, seventeen. With reference 
to his youth, Alexander Knox, an Irish friend of later 
days, tells an amusing story of Samuel Wesley's fruit- 
less attempt to initiate his son into the prudent 
parental art of "making interest." 

" I remember Mr. Wesley told us that his father was 
the person who composed the well-known speech de- 
livered by Dr. Sacheverell at the close of his trial; 1 
and that on this ground when he, Mr. John Wesley, 
was about to be entered at Oxford, his father, knowing 
that the doctor had a strong interest in the college for 
which his son was devoted, desired him to call on the 

1 Atterbury has usually the credit of this achievement. 


doctor on his way to get letters of recommendation. 
' When I was introduced,' said Mr. John Wesley, ' I 
found him alone, as tall as a maypole, and as fine as 
an archbishop. I was a very little fellow, not taller 
(pointing to a very gentlemanlike but very dwarfish 
clergyman who was in the company) than Mr. Kennedy 
there. He said : " You are too young to go to the 
university ; you cannot know Latin and Greek yet. 
Go back to school." I looked at him as David looked 
at Goliath, and despised him in my heart. I thought, 
" If I do not know Greek and Latin better than you, 
I ought to go back to school indeed." x I left him, and 
neither entreaties nor commands could have again 
brought me back to him.' " 

Brave words ! But one wonders what his wise 
father thought of the woeful waste of opportunity. 
Your great men, your Sacheverells must have their 
say, but their say is often only the preface to deeds of 
genuine kindness. However, the sequel proved that 
Sacheverell was wrong — hopelessly and entirely wrong. 
Wesley succeeded brilliantly, and, with the help of Dr. 
Wigan, made such good progress that, at twenty-one, 
an observer could say of him : " He appeared the very 
sensible and acute logician; a young fellow of the 
finest classical taste, of the most liberal and manly 

And the University appreciated his talents. In 
March 1726 he gained a fellowship at Lincoln ; and in 
the following November he was appointed lecturer in 
Greek and moderator of the classes. He was even now 
only twenty-three, and had not yet taken his Master's 

1 The Wesleys were a scholarship-winning family, and Christ Church 
was a kind of freehold for them. 


degree. Dr. Sacheverell must have been scandalised, 
but Wesley's old father was overjoyed. " What will 
be my own fate before the summer be over, God 
knows ; sed passi graviora. Wherever I am, my Jack 
is Fellow of Lincoln." 

Readers of Gibbon's Autobiography will be pre- 
pared for a not too favourable estimate of the Oxford 
of the eighteenth century. The Magdalen drones, 
however, were perhaps not the worst enemies of 
studious youth. Men like Tom Warton, who was at 
once poet-laureate, professor of history, and bon 
vivant, lured many an undergraduate from the thorny 
path of application by the temptations of good dinners, 
anniversaries, music meetings, and expeditions to 
Wallingford, Woodstock, and London. Instead of 
fixing their minds on law, physick, or divinity, the 
tyros wasted their energy in the purest dissipations. 
If any of their number had succeeded in interpreting 
a black-letter inscription, it was a subject for sincere 
felicitation, and justified a week's dispensation from 
mental toil. In Tom Warton's rooms they discussed, 
with Tom as umpire, which college excelled in long 
corks, or had a cook best qualified for serving up 
harrico of mutton or hashed calf's head. When 
the nectar had been exchanged for gall, and the rosy 
visions had been replaced by the cold world, plenty 
of John Hollands might have been found lamenting 
the brief spell of Elysium. 

According to Wesley's account of Lincoln, the 
Fellows were at least gentlemen. They were per- 
fectly satisfied with one another. They were good- 
natured, well-bred, and " admirably disposed to preserve 
peace and good neighbourhood among themselves," and 


" to promote it wherever else they had acquaintance/' 
That being the case, they were easily led to discoun- 
tenance those who by their conduct tacitly censured 
their neighbours. Mr. Smith did this. He husbanded 
time, retrenched unnecessary expenses, and shunned 
irreligious acquaintance. And he was treated as a 
Guy Fawkes. " The thing that gives offence here is 
the being singular with regard to time, expense, and 
company." Precisely ; you will never get on in society 
if you make your behaviour a reproach to those 
amongst whom you move. 

Wesley, like Esaias, was very bold. The Fellows 
had elected him one of themselves in the teeth of 
sundry hints that he was unsuitable ; and some years 
before poor Mr. Smith developed those unwelcome 
traits, they must have been convinced of their mistake. 
Not only was Wesley a perfect Spartan in discipline, 
requiring his pupils to rise betimes and adapt them- 
selves to a rigid code of rules, but he had imbibed 
notions that threatened the very foundations of social 
life. If the Fellows did not serve Wesley as they 
served Smith, it was because they knew that they 
might as well dash themselves against adamant. 
When once his mind was made up, not all the bishops 
in England could move him. Ostracism, the certain 
punishment of stubborn eccentricity, had no terrors 
for a man who confessed that, unless people were of a 
religious turn of mind, he was much better pleased 
without them. 

Charles Wesley, younger than John by five years, 
had been educated at Westminster under his brother 
Samuel. He, too, found his way to Christ Church. 
Here, for the first two or three terms, he closed his 


ears to fraternal remonstrance and gave himself up 
to frivolity. In 1727 John, who had taken deacon's 
orders, temporarily withdrew from Oxford and resided, 
as his father's curate, at Wroote. Dr. Morley, however, 
the head of his college, could not dispense with his 
services, and in November 1729 he was again at 

By this time Charles had undergone a succession 
of changes. From frivolity he had passed to study, 
from study to reflection, and from reflection to weekly 
participation of the sacrament. In this exemplary 
practice he had induced two or three other students to 
join him, and from the strict observance of religious 
duties combined with a scrupulous regard for the 
statutes of the university, had gained, as he says, " the 
harmless name of Methodist." 

If Charles Wesley intended by this statement that 
the nickname was new and good-natured, he was 
under a sad delusion. His brother, in his account 
of the word, traces it to an ancient school of physicians, 
of whom few, very few, have heard. It might be 
unfair to condemn this pedigree as historical affectation, 
but it is certain that the Wesleys never liked the 
name, and accepted it for convenience. 

The truth seems to be that " Methodist " was then, 
as now, a term of. reproach among persons of contrary 
or no religious principle, and both trend and ancestry 
are sufficiently indicated in a Lambeth sermon of 1639. 
In this discourse the question is propounded : " Where 
are now our Anabaptists, and plain, pack-staff' 
Methodists, who esteem all flowers of rhetoric no 
better than stinking weeds, and all elegancies of 
speech no better than profane spells ? " At the close 


of the same century, a section of Nonconformists, 
holding similar views of justification to those after- 
wards embraced by Wesley, were styled by their 
co-religionists " New Methodists." 

Now it is very strange if the Wesleys, with their 
Nonconformist connections, possessed no acquaintance 
with these facts. They need not have known the 
Lambeth sermon, but they might have been expected 
to know the associations of their own sobriquet. But, 
if they did, why that uncandid reference to the ancient 
physicians ? After all, it may be that the information, 
obvious as it may now seem, had somehow eluded 
them. John Wesley, in his Short History of 
Methodism, certainly describes the term as new and 
quaint, and attributes to a Christ Church man its 
application to the Oxford coterie. 

Popular ignorance played all kinds of pranks with 
the name. The usual abbreviation was " Methody," 
but it was sometimes confounded with " Maccabee." 
Its meaning also was obscure. In Ireland a gentle- 
man defined Methodists as " people who placed all 
religion in wearing long beards." 

Although Charles Wesley may be considered the 
first Methodist in point of time, he was not, or not for 
long, the first Methodist in point of importance. John 
Wesley possessed in a marked degree what Charles 
Wesley possessed only in a moderate degree — will ; 
and, as the necessary result, he took the control of the 
society which Charles had instituted. There were at 
first only four of them — the two Wesleys, Morgan of 
Christ Church, and Kirkman of Merton. After a 
year, they were reinforced by others, among whom 
were James Hervey, not yet author of Medita- 


tions among the Tombs, George Whitefield, and John 
Gambold. • 

The original design was to read over the classics on 
three or four evenings of the week, and on Sunday 
some work on divinity ; but John Wesley was already 
in process of becoming, as he afterwards boasted he 
had become, a man of one book. It seems that 
Morgan commenced the religious practices that 
occasioned so much talk, but the predominance of 
the Wesleys, and especially of John Wesley, was 
unquestioned. According to Gambold, Charles had a 
real deference for his brother, and submitted to him in 
a way that seemed hardly credible in such near rela- 
tions. " Could I describe one of them," he says, " I 
should describe both." Though John Wesley was of 
unassuming demeanour, Gambold thought he had 
something of authority in his countenance. Charles, 
on the other hand, was affable and amiable. He was 
" a man formed for friendship." 

Whatever credit may be due to Charles Wesley and 
to Morgan as pioneers — Morgan, alas ! was to die 
young — John Wesley alone could have been chief. 
Not only had he the advantage in age, in academic 
studies, and in general knowledge, but for some years 
he had been unconsciously ripening for the part. On 
quitting Christ Church for Lincoln he had " shaken off 
all his trifling acquaintance " — without, of course, con- 
sulting the pacific and sociable Fellows — and had taken 
to reading the Imitation of Christ, ascribed to Thomas 
a Kempis, Jeremy Taylor's Rules of Holy Living and 
Dying, and William Law's Christian Perfection and 
Serious Call. 

At a later period he saw much to criticise in one 


and all of these works. Even then he was not quite 
satisfied with his oracles. One rule — " We must be 
sure, in some sense or other, to think ourselves the 
worst in every company where we come " — seemed to 
him impracticable. Another rule — " Whether God has 
forgiven us or no, we know not ; therefore be sorrowful 
for ever having sinned" — not merely contradicted 
other portions of the treatise, but contained highly 
disputable doctrine. John Wesley was striving to 
keep the whole law of God, both inwardly and out- 
wardly, and whilst he did that, he deemed himself in 
a state of salvation. But for Jeremy Taylor, it is 
conceivable that Wesley would never have doubted 
that he was in a state of salvation, and that the 
doctrine of assurance, in the extremely narrow and 
highly technical sense that Wesley imparted to it, 
would never have perplexed English minds philo- 
sophical or lay. 

A lesson that Wesley learnt from Taylor was the 
" wisdom of flight." The mastership of a school in 
Yorkshire chanced to be vacant, and Wesley thought 
of applying for it. The school was charmingly situated 
in a secluded vale, where Nature and Nature's God 
might have been enjoyed without expense. Had this 
nebulous idea taken definite shape, the secluded vale 
would have been to Wesley what the wilderness was 
to his prototype — a place of preparation. For Baptists 
and Methodists — men of intense activity — there is one, 
and only one, possible sphere — the world. For Wesley 
the world continued to be Oxford. 

Defective as his manuals of devotion might have 
been, they had revealed to Wesley the "exceeding 
height, and breadth, and depth " of the law of God. 


That majestic law he and his companions tried hard 
to obey. They not only prayed, but fasted, and as 
they regularly attended Holy Communion, they were 
styled by mirthful critics " Sacramentarians." This 
name was afterwards altered to " The Holy Club," 
probably to suit the widening circle of duty to which 
the members of the society felt themselves drawn. 
When the circle had extended to the utmost limit of 
which Merton and Christ Church could conceive, " The 
Holy Club" became "The Reforming Club; or, The 
Enthusiasts." In the eighteenth century — that age of 
reason — when a man had been called an " enthusiast," 
he could be called nothing worse. He had sounded 
the lowest depth of obloquy. 

But the ugly epithet was unmerited. The Bible- 
moths no doubt took a strict, and even appalling, view 
of their religious obligations. The state of being 
always "recollected" is the very crown and pinnacle 
of asceticism ; but, if practicable at all, can be attained, 
and perhaps better, without enthusiasm. Nor in his 
external actions did Wesley and his associates trans- 
gress the bounds of strict churchmanship. If, inspired 
by Mr. Morgan's example, they visited the felons at 
the Castle, they first consulted the chaplain. If they 
preached to them once a month, they first got leave of 
the bishop. Poor' families, incarcerated debtors, and 
" beardless freshmen " were the care of the Holy Club, 
which freely disbursed both money and advice. The 
members supported also a school for neglected children, 
whom they helped to clothe. 

Their abundant labours were rewarded with scant 
esteem, and at Merton the Bible-moths were ridiculed 
for customs not their own. Wesley took this pleasantry 


to heart ; and, being unable to arrive at a satisfactory 
conclusion, wrote to his father and eldest brother for 
counsel. The septuagenarian, who, whilst in residence 
at Oxford, had himself visited the prisoners, bade him 
not be discouraged. "I hear my son John has the 
honour of being styled the ' Father of the Holy Club.' 
If it be so, I am sure I must be the grandfather of it, 
and I need not say that I had rather any of my sons 
should be so dignified and distinguished than to have 
the title of ' his Holiness.' " The younger Samuel was 
equally emphatic. 

However, the proceedings of the Holy Club occa- 
sioned increasing scandal. Morgan had, it was alleged, 
died from excessive fasting, and for a time his rela- 
tions were disposed to charge their bereavement on 
Wesley. Private persons employed both violence and 
persuasion to arrest the mania for Communion. The 
authorities at Merton held a private conclave to 
stem the tide of enthusiasm, and there was ominous 
talk of the censors "blowing up" the Godly Club. 
These measures were not without effect. During 
Wesley's absence in the north the communicants at 
St. Mary's dwindled from seven-and-twenty to five. 

Some echo of the scandal seems to have reached 
Epworth; and, in 1731, Wesley's old father, having 
journeyed to London, deemed it well to extend his 
travels to Oxford, in order that he might investigate 
matters on the spot. He appears to have satisfied him- 
self that there was no justification for the outcry, and, 
on returning to London, wrote to Mrs. Wesley that he 
had been well repaid for his trouble " by the shining 
piety of our sons." 

He was not, however, so impressed with the import- 


ance of their labours as to consider that they ought to 
entail any considerable sacrifice on the part of his 
family and himself. He was past the allotted span of 
life, and had made no provision for his wife and un- 
married daughters. He therefore requested John to 
terminate his Oxford career, and " make interest " that 
he might succeed to the living of Epworth. Other 
relations urged the same course, and his brother Samuel 
attempted to work on his sense of duty by pointing 
out that he was bound by his ordination vows to seek 
the cure of souls. John was deaf to all appeals. He 
thought that, if he left Oxford, it would be at the peril 
of his soul. There he could train future clergymen, 
and that, it seemed to him, was his mission. 

Southey says of John Wesley's part in the corre- 
spondence that it was not " creditable to his judgment," 
but there was no supreme reason why he should go to 
Epworth, and, in point of fact, his sister's husband, 
John Whitelamb, obtained the preferment. This is 
really one of those" cases that test the judgment of 
the biographer. If Wesley had been of less import- 
ance to the world, it might have been objected that 
he had no right to disregard the commands of his 
venerable father. But the man who is to achieve 
great things for humanity will at times find himself 
face to face with contingencies, in which he will have 
to risk the appearance of ungraciousness, and even 
worse, or allow his whole course to be wrecked. John 
Wesley's main characteristic was moral courage. He 
had a stupendous task, and his Taskmaster no doubt 
absolved him for declining the unreasonable demand 
of his friends. Some soreness there may — indeed, must 
— have been, but the refusal caused no breach in the 


almost unearthly rectitude of the family relations. 
In April 1735 the old rector died. His sons, John and 
Charles, were with him at the close, and, just before 
his departure, John pronounced the commendatory 
prayer. His father replied, " Now you have done all," 
and imperceptibly his soul glided out into the ocean of 

The year 1732 was marked by a new settlement in 
America. Primarily this was the work of James 
Oglethorpe, a member of the British House of 
Commons, whose heart had been moved by the suffer- 
ings of poor debtors. It seemed to him terrible that 
men of character should drag out a miserable exist- 
ence in filthy jails, to which they had been committed 
as the penalty of youthful imprudence or defective 
judgment; and he set himself to provide for derelict 
Britons a new chance in the New World. 

But there were others who claimed Oglethorpe's 
sympathy hardly less than his own afflicted country- 
men. These were the persecuted Protestants of mid- 
Europe. Long before Luther had affixed his theses 
to the gates of the castle-church at Wittenberg, the 
compatriots of Hus had kept alight in Moravia and 
Bohemia the torch of evangelical doctrine. Since the 
sixteenth century, however, they had encountered 
many difficulties. Outwardly .they had been com- 
pelled to conform to the dominant religion. They 
had been subjected to intermittent persecution. Many 
of them had migrated to Saxony, where, however, they 
enjoyed no sense of security. Oglethorpe saw in these 
simple-hearted Germans excellent material for colonists, 
and offered them home and freedom beyond the sea. 

The offer had been eagerly accepted. The evacua- 


tion of Salzburg, whence some of them had come, 
had been signalised by incidents savouring rather of 
romance than of sober history. At least they appear 
to have little in common with the eighteenth century. 
The extended line of pilgrims, afoot, and chanting 
hymns along the way, full of faith and enthusiasm — 
the welcoming by the clergy at Leipsic, and by the 
university at Wittenberg — and the burst of gratitude 
when the exiles found themselves on the broad bosom 
of the Atlantic, their faces tinged by the rays of the 
setting sun — there is something in these episodes that 
recalls mediaeval customs, if indeed we do not prefer 
the analogy of the previous century, when the embers 
of the Great Reformation still glowed in the breasts of 
the Puritans, and on the deck of the Mayflower. 

In 1734 Oglethorpe visited England in order to 
enlist further sympathy for his enterprise. On his 
return he carried with him John and Charles Wesley. 
Do not suppose that John Wesley, who dared not quit 
Oxford for Epworth, sailed without scruple to the 
virgin colony in the West. At first he flatly declined, 
but, on the advice of John Byrom and William Law, 
both personal acquaintances, he resigned himself to the 
task of converting the heathen. The project excited 
much ridicule, and was regarded as an additional proof 
of mental instability. " What is this, sir ? " cried a 
wise man. " Are you turned Quixote, too ? Will 
nothing serve you but to encounter windmills ? " 
Such was the view taken of Christian missions in the 
year of grace 1736. 1 

Wesley's sojourn in America cannot be accounted, 

1 This is the more remarkable, as the Wesleys went out under the 
auspices of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. 


even by his most fervid admirers, a satisfactory chapter 
of his career. He set out with high hopes, and in less 
than two years he came back, baffled and, to some 
extent, in disgrace. Still those two years were not 
unimportant. They brought him in contact with the 
Moravians, and the Moravians, as Wesley was led to 
believe, possessed the true key of Christianity. He 
was first struck with the difference between their 
religion and his own on the outward voyage, when 
there arose a succession of storms. The third — what 
the Greeks might have called an enlarged rpixvpia, — was 
the worst. The ship rocked to and fro, and every ten 
minutes the stern or side of the vessel received such a 
shock that it seemed a miracle the planks still held 
together. The storm began at noon, and at seven was 
still raging. Wesley now paid a visit to his friends, 
the Germans. They had given the last proofs of their 
Christian humility. An opportunity had now arrived 
for testing their Christian fortitude. They well sus- 
tained the ordeal. The sea broke over the ship, split 
the mainsail, and poured in between the decks. The 
English began to scream ; the Germans, who had just 
entered on their vespers, continued singing. Wesley 
could not but contrast the firmness of the Moravians 
with the agitation of his own countrymen. Personally, 
he does not seem to have been much afraid, but he 
owns to a certain "unwillingness to die," which he 
thought was indicative of want of faith. 

The emigrants landed at a desert island opposite 
that of Tybee, and, led by Oglethorpe, ascended some 
rising ground, where they knelt down and gave thanks 
for their safe voyage. Oglethorpe then proceeded by 
boat to Savannah, the wooden capital of Georgia. On 


his return he was accompanied by a Mr. Spangenberg, 
a Moravian pastor, and to this Protestant confessor 
Wesley — always insatiable of advice, which, however, 
he did not always follow — confided his perplexi- 
ties. The incident was dramatic, but apparently 

" He said, ' My brother, I must first ask you one or 
two questions. Have you the witness within your- 
self ? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your 
spirit that you are a child of God ? ' I was surprised, 
and knew not what to answer. He observed it, and 
asked, ' Do you know Jesus Christ ? ' I paused, and 
said, ' I know He is the Saviour of the world.' ' True,' 
replied he, 'but do you know He has saved you?' 
I answered, * I hope He has died to save me.' He only 
added, ' Do you know yourself ? ' I said, ' I do.' But 
I fear they were vain words." 

The note of hesitancy discernible in these words may 
be explained by the novelty of the catechism. Wesley 
had never before been subjected to so pointed an 
examination, and recoiled before an inquisitor to whom 
such questions and answers were the veriest common- 
place. For the present his assumption that he was a 
true Christian remained intact, as was proved by an 
energy of ministerial labour unsurpassed even by the 
unflagging exertions of his later life. The belief that 
he was not only a true Christian, but a true Christian 
priest, caused him to act magisterially towards those 
very Moravians whose practical superiority he had 
recognised in the hour of trial. Afterwards he deemed 
this conduct strange and censurable. " What a truly 
Christian piety and simplicity breathe in these lines ! 
And yet this very man, when I was at Savannah, did 


I refuse to admit to the Lord's Table, because he was 
not baptized." 

The Wesleys had gone to America for the conversion 
of the heathen, but the Creeks, the Choctaws, the 
Cherokees, and others representing that vast and 
benighted portion of humanity, saw extremely little 
of the brothers. Soon after their arrival they found 
their services in demand for the assemblage of cosmo- 
politan whites. John remained at Savannah, whilst 
Charles, who had likewise taken orders, went on to 

The charter of the new colony expressly forbade 
the importation of ardent spirits, and the aim of the 
trustees, and especially of the governor, was to render 
Georgia a model province. But, in spite of the pro- 
hibition of gin and papists, and the presence of a 
goodly leaven of Moravians, profligate men invaded 
the transatlantic Eden, where they engaged in smug- 
gling and other vicious practices. All this they com- 
passed to the horror of the virtuous and sensitive 
Charles Wesley, who appears to have had more than 
his fair share of adventurers. Perhaps they did not 
really pretend or attempt to shoot him in the myrtle 
grove, but it is evident that they worked on his fears, 
and at length his brother, who was made of sterner 
stuff, undertook to relieve him. 

John Wesley was capable of anything. He preached 
in English to the English, in French to the French, 
in Italian to the Italians, in German to the Germans. 
He learnt Spanish that he might preach in that 
language to peninsular Jews. He could, and did, 
converse with learned Moravians in Latin. That he 
might not encroach on the working-day, he conducted 


services before and after the hours of labour. He 
visited the sick. He catechised children. He rebuked 
profane swearing in His Majesty's officers. 

He thus devoted himself to the duties of his sacred 
office, and left colonial politics to General Oglethorpe 
and the other patrons, who, in accordance with their 
motto, non sibi, sed aliis, decided what was for the 
good of the settlers. Bancroft, the historian of the 
United States, has remarked that Wesley desired and 
exerted no influence in moulding the institutions of 
Georgia. " As he strolled through natural avenues of 
palmettoes and evergreen hollies, and woods sombre 
with hanging moss, his heart gushed forth in addresses 
to God — 

'Is there a thing beneath the sun, 

That strives with Thee my heart to share? 
Ah, tear it thence, and reign alone — 
The Lord of every motion there.'" 

Wesley's residence in America was terminated by a 
painful — not to say, discreditable — incident. He was 
drawn into a queer sort of love affair with a fine girl, 
who, according to some versions, played the part of 
temptress to Wesley's St. Anthony. The lady was a 
Miss Hopkey, niece of a leading storekeeper and 
justice of the peace, called Causton ; and she mani- 
fested a desire to amend her life under Wesley's tuition. 
Wesley asked nothing better. He interested himself, 
not only in Miss Sophy's spiritual health, but, antici- 
pating his latter craze for physicking, in her bodily 
health as well. " In the beginning of December," he 
writes, " I advised Miss Sophy to sup earlier, and not 
immediately before she went to bed. She did so, and 
on this little circumstance, what an inconceivable train 


of consequences depend ! Not only all the colour of 
remaining life for her, but perhaps my happiness too." 

Notwithstanding so much solicitude, the parties never 
became betrothed, but there was an understanding — 
not perhaps formally expressed, but still sufficiently 
binding — that, in due course, Miss Hopkey would be 
transformed into Mrs. Wesley. It is probable that the 
union would have taken place — Mr. Causton, at all 
events, would have raised no objection — but for Mr. 
Delamotte. This gentleman, one of Wesley's friends 
who had shared the voyage from England, either turned 
amiable Paul Pry or acquired, without having sought 
it, information that caused him to suspect the purity 
of Miss Sophy's motives. He arrived at the conclusion 
that her professions were hollow, that she was neither 
more nor less than a designing woman, whose society 
would have the worst results on Wesley's interests 
both here and hereafter. He communicated his fears 
to the artless lover, and inquired whether it was his 
intention to marry her. 

Wesley was inexpressibly shocked, and repaired to 
the Moravian bishop for advice. The dignitary replied 
that, in the abstract, marriage was not unlawful, but 
it was a question whether such a marriage as Wesley 
had contemplated was quite expedient. He promised 
to lay the case before the elders. Now the Moravians 
were a plain, primitive people, not distinguished for 
delicacy of feeling, and they were the last body in the 
world to sympathise with Miss Sophy's little coquetries. 
Their verdict was unfriendly. Upon this Wesley 
tacitly forsook his lady-love. He did not acquaint 
her with the decision which had been, as it were, forced 
upon him — "his wound was great because it was so 


small" — but his ardour was not what it had been. 
He was guilty of a coolness which the lady could not 
but remark, and she showed her sense of his conduct by 
marrying, not many months after, a Mr. Williamson. 

One's sympathies go out to Miss Sophy. She had 
sought to adapt herself, as far as any woman ever 
could, to the whims of a spiritual Quixote, and all that 
she had gained by conscientious self-denial was to find 
herself the mark for the prosy criticism of a quorum of 
pietists, mature, staid, incapable of making allowances. 
Wesley's behaviour was abominable. He had won 
the girl's confidence, and all the Moravians in the 
world could not absolve him from the obligation of 
the unwritten pact, the unspoken vow. 1 He professed 
to feel the blow keenly, but he had no right to make 
Miss Sophy's peccadilloes an excuse for self-imposed 
penance. The best apology that can be offered for his 
vacillation is this — that he was deficient in primary 
human instinct. His brother Samuel knew something 
of his capabilities as a lover. When he learnt that the 
match was " off," he expressed regret, " for," said he, 
" you are unlikely to find another." 

But worse was to follow. Not content with disap- 
pointing Miss Sophy, he must cast a slur on Mrs. 
Williamson by constituting himself a severe censor of 
her morals. Now. that she was lawfully married, 
Mrs. Williamson's morals might have been deemed a 
matter rather for her husband's concern than for 
Wesley's. Wesley, however, ministered at the altar, 
and, as the rubric expressly required him to " advertise " 

1 Miss Hopkey, however, alleged that "Wesley made her a definite 
offer, and was willing to go a long way in meeting her objections. 
Wesley's own statements are rather vague. 


notorious and evil livers against coming to the Lord's 
Table, he informed his late inamorata that, without 
proof of contrition, she could not be admitted to the 
sacred rite. He concluded a series of technicalities by 
actually repelling her from Holy Communion. 

Naturally, Mr. Williamson was furious, and prose- 
cuted Wesley for defaming his wife's character. The 
legal incidents, though Wesley makes the best of 
them, attest his unpopularity in the colony. An effort 
was made to include in the indictment a number of 
other counts. Eventually they were struck out, but 
the effect, and perhaps the intention, of the proceedings 
was to convince Wesley that, for him, Georgia was 
no longer habitable. He accepted the situation, and 
defiantly departed. 

Wesley's apologists — for example, the Rev. Richard 
Watson — are forced to allow that, in treating Mrs. 
Williamson as he did, he was neither prudent nor 
courteous. There can be no question of that. Whether 
he was influenced by jealousy or revenge is a point on 
which opinions will differ. Probably he was not. But, 
as a matter of tact, of good taste and good feeling, he 
was much to blame in selecting for public opprobrium 
the woman whom he had lately thought of for his wife. 
Nor can he be acquitted of a grave lack of common 
sense in suddenly reviving forgotten ecclesiastical 
usages, the exercise of which, outside the pale of the 
Moravians, was bound to convey a far more serious 
stigma than Wesley himself either contemplated or 
desired. Yet the retrospect was not displeasing ! He had 
lost Miss Sophy. He had converted no large percentage 
of heathens. But he had benefited his own soul, and 
he was happily devoid of any sense of humiliation. 



The Fear of Death — Peter Bohler — Justification by Faith — John 
Gambold — Hell — Methodist Type of Conversion — Wesley and 
Manzoni compared — 24th May 1738 — Rudeness to William 
Law — Montaigne's Three Orders — The Church of England — 
Adventures of Bishop Wilson — Non-Besidence — Dissent — 
Eeligion at Zero — The Apostle of England — Visit to 

The scene now changes to London. The image of 
Miss Sophy had been effaced from his heart, and 
Wesley's mind was centred on his own perilous state 
before God. He had a decided faculty for introspec- 
tion, as well as a decided fondness for psychological 
stock-taking. The observation made during the out- 
ward voyage, now that he had once more leisure from 
amorous distractions and ministerial responsibilities, 
returned upon him- with full force. He felt that he 
wanted faith, that he wanted salvation, that he wanted 
peace — peace in life and death. " I went to America 
to convert the Indians, but, oh ! who shall convert me ? 
Who is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of 
unbelief ? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk 
well, nay, and believe myself, while no danger is 
present, but let death look me in the face, and my 


spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, 'To die is 


' I have a sin of fear that, when I've spun 
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore.' " 

A stickler in such matters might be disposed to find 
fault with the quotation, in which the connection 
between spinning a thread and perishing on the shore 
is, to say the least, not pressingly obvious. Perhaps a 
reminiscence of Clotho, first of the Fates, is the missing 
link. Anyhow, there is no difficulty in allowing that 
Wesley might have been happier in his poetical 

Be the poetry what it may, there can be no dispute 
as to the drift of the passage. Wesley feared death, 
and since he feared death, he suspected that his faith was 
vain, that he was yet in his sins. That his faith might 
have been more robust, more vivid, may be conceded, but 
it seems hardly reasonable to treat the fear of death 
as an absolute test of religion. This feeling is deep- 
rooted, widespread. In the opening scene of the Alcestis 
Euripides introduces a characteristic dialogue between 
Apollo and Death. The King of Terrors gloats over 
his promised victim— the devoted wife who, alone of 
his relations, was willing to die for Admetus. The 
sacrifice is all the more precious because the substitute 
is young, and Death, in pitilessly rejecting Apollo's 
intercession, observes grimly : 

"Who might would buy grey heads to die for them." 

And Wesley was not very old. 

The fear of death is, in fact, an ordinance of Nature, 
conjointly with the instinct of reproduction, for the 
preservation of the species, and exists potentially in 


the ratio of mental and physical health. Courage may 
be defined as the quality that enables one to banish 
the thought of death at a moment when its presence 
would be inconvenient, and, perhaps, fatal. But no 
amount of courage can reconcile the full enjoyment of 
life with-easy acquiescence in its negation. 

This fact has been well understood by preachers and 
moralists, who counsel extreme moderation in earthly 
pleasures, if not entire abstinence from them, as the 
sole remedy for what they are pleased to term the 
" sin of fear." In his Practical Discourse concerning 
Death, which was first published in 1689, and of which 
there were at least twenty editions, Dean Sherlock begins 
a fine peroration with the words : " The only way to 
cure this fear of death is to mortify all remains of love 
and affection for this world, to withdraw ourselves as 
much as may be from the conversation of it, to use it 
very sparingly and with great indifferency." This is, 
indeed, the principle of the cloister — inoculation. You 
grow resigned to death, because you have anticipated 
its effects. In imagination you have passed, not once, 
nor twice, but many times, within the veil. The 
Unseen has become for you a home, an abiding-place. 

Besides a natural and wholesome fear of death, 
common to most men, there is also a morbid fear, 
which seems to have afflicted, inter alios, Dr. Johnson. 
But Wesley's sentiment, it is safe to aver, was whole- 
some. He was in possession of good health. His 
faculties were keen. There was plenty to do in the 
world. If he was unwilling, and even afraid, to die, 
he was not of necessity devoid of faith. The truth is 
that religious people are apt to identify natural feel- 
ings with spiritual emotions. And sometimes they 


make grave mistakes. When the Life of Dr. Pusey 
appeared, a reviewer suggested that the depression of 
which that great leader complained, and for which he 
punished himself with a hair shirt, was really the 
sensation of lost youth. Pusey himself did not com- 
prehend his malady — exhaustion of spirits — but that, 
it was thought, was the root of the evil. ' This feature 
often makes the journals of religious people — not 
Wesley's Journals — painful, and even repellent. The 
writers are for ever accusing themselves of faults 
that belong to change and decay, to climate and to 

Nature, however, is bountiful. If she deals a wound, 
she also provides a salve. If she sows the bane, she 
makes to rise with it the antidote. In the life of man 
the consolations of religion are always open. When 
human resources fail, the victims of circumstance, the 
thralls of conscience, may repair to the Great Physician. 
P>ut in these contingencies Providence not seldom 
resembles Nature. The demand creates the supply. 
The Great Physician has His deputies. Is Saul of 
Tarsus incapacitated — blinded by the exceeding bright- 
ness of the vision ? Ananias is commissioned to attend 
him, and the scales fall from his eyes. In the 
same manner, when John Wesley's confidence departed, 
when his prayers, his fasts, his communions seemed 
worthless, and he sighed for peace, Peter Bbhler, as 
though despatched for the purpose, arrived in London 
from Germany, and furnished the desired boon. 

Peter Bohler — whom Tyerman, with irritating per- 
sisency, calls Bohler — was a young man of twenty-six, 
who had studied at the University of Jena, and had 
afterwards cast in his lot with the Moravians. The 


year before he had been consecrated bishop by Count 
Zinzendorf, and was prepared to employ the powers 
entrusted to him for the benefit of sincere candidates, 
whether German or English. His ultimate destination, 
however, was America. 

The German bishop was a real father in God to his 
audience in London, and soon the Moravians seem to 
have looked upon him as an inspired genius or as 
endued with a double portion of the Spirit. His 
addresses were given in Latin, but a learned tailor 
called Viney acted as interpreter, and the effects were 
very striking. The Wesleys, having met Bohler at 
the house of a Dutch merchant, rendered him such 
services as his position in a strange land appeared 
to require. John Wesley procured him lodgings. 
Charles Wesley taught him English. By way of 
return, Peter Bohler taught both John and Charles 
Wesley the meaning of faith. In a letter to Zinzen- 
dorf he diagnosed their case as follows : — The elder 
was a good-natured man, who knew that he did not 
properly believe on the Saviour, and was willing 
to be taught, while the younger was very much 
distressed in mind, but did not know how he should 
begin to be acquainted with the Saviour. 

What was the difficulty ? There was the rub — 
there was no difficulty. Had there been a difficulty 
the Englishmen would have mastered it, but the 
ease and simplicity of the thing baffled them. 
Although their belief was only of a general descrip- 
tion, they could not divest themselves of the notion 
that they believed already, and that their belief 
must be expressed in practice. The result was 
that they were at heart very miserable. Bohler 


taught them that intellectual assent was not sufficient, 
that faith was an affair of the heart, that faith alone 
was necessary to salvation. 

The Moravians held also that the change from a 
mere formal belief, or intellectual assent, to real faith 
was instantaneous, and that this real faith, the opera- 
tion of a moment, was the reception of the divine 
impress, transfiguring the whole nature. If a simile 
may be taken from the popular art of photography, it 
was as if the human soul were a film completely 
shrouded in gloom. For a fraction, and only a fraction, 
of a second the film is bared to the light. But during 
that brief exposure the nature of the film has been 
radically altered. Properly treated, it is now capable 
of reproducing in countless exemplars the beauty of 
which it was the passive recipient. Just as the film is 
" sensitised," so the human soul must be rendered tender 
and responsive ; and, as in the case of the film, there 
must be complete passivity. There can be no question 
of works. 

That was the doctrine which Bohler taught the 
Wesleys, and the Wesleys accepted. John Wesley did 
indeed afterwards differ from the Moravians concern- 
ing the importance of works. He did not think works 
absolutely negligible. But he agreed that works 
were in no sense a condition precedent to salvation. 
Theoretically, he had always held that view, but, in 
the strenuous discharge of duty, he had no doubt 
made an idol of work, and so, perhaps half -uncon- 
sciously, of works. 

In the heyday of his Oxford sacramentarianism, 
Wesley was certainly not miserable. Gambold says 
of that period, " I could say a great deal of his private 


piety, how it was nourished by a continual recourse to 
God, and preserved by a strict watchfulness in beating 
down pride and reducing the craftiness and impetuosity 
of nature to a childlike simplicity, and in a good 
degree crowned with divine love and victory over 
the whole set of earthly passions. He thought prayer 
to be more his business than anything else, and I have 
seen him come out of his closet with a serenity of 
countenance that was next to shining." 

Even so recently as January 1738 he had written in 
his Journal : " From this day I had no more of that 
fearfulness and heaviness, which before almost con- 
tinually weighed me down. I am sensible that one 
who thinks the being in orco, as they phrase it, an 
indispensable preparation for being a Christian, would 
say I had better have continued in that state ; and that 
this unseasonable relief was a curse, not a blessing. 
Nay, but who art thou, O man, who, in favour of a 
wretched hypothesis, thus blasphemest the good gift 
of God ? Hath not He Himself said, ' This also is the 
gift of God, if a man have power to rejoice in his 
labour.' Yea, God setteth His own seal to his weak 
endeavours, while he thus ' answereth him in the joy 
of his life.' " 

Wesley, however, had always suffered an amount 
of unrest through 'speculation. Jeremy Taylor had 
perplexed him with his heroic version of humility 
and his counsel of perpetual penitence. William Law 
had perplexed him with his doctrine of Christian per- 
fection. And now there was this "sin of fear." In 
the very next paragraph in his Journal to that 
recording the triumph over depression — and Wesley 
in all his life never struck a higher note — there is a 


sensible change of tone. " Who shall convert me ? " 
he exclaims. 

The answer is that Peter Bbhler was to accomplish 
this feat. He was to convert not only John Wesley, 
but Charles Wesley, and, in addition, John Gambold. 
Gambold, resigning his Anglican cure, was elected a 
Moravian bishop. This was a mark of high confi- 
dence., but, on the whole, — especially as he had no 
quarrel with the Church and her formularies, — he 
would better have remained as he was. A man of 
talent, he wrote a drama entitled The Martyrdom 
of St. Ignatius, and he wrote fugitive pieces. These 
fugitive pieces render it evident that he was not 
happy. Goethe observes that English literature, at 
any rate in its later periods, is steeped in melancholy, 
and a glance at contemporary anthologies fully bears 
out this observation. Perhaps, therefore, it would 
be wrong to charge the whole of this convert's dejec- 
tion on his Moravian episcopacy and the consequent 
severance from old ties and familiar associations. It 
is, however, open to surmise whether Gambold ever 
recovered from the shock of his conversion. 

Though Bbhler speaks of " our German mode " as 
simple, it is plain that many of his disciples — Charles 
Wesley, for one — found conversion so hard as to be 
almost impracticable. Now what was conversion as 
understood by Moravian and Methodist? In the 
first place, it had to do with fear. When Boswell 
asked Johnson the reason of those dreadful 
paroxysms at the thought of death, the doctor ex- 
plained that he was tormented with apprehensions 
of hell, of eternal damnation. In the case of so great 
and good a man as the lexicographer, such apprehen- 


sions must be pronounced, to a large extent, morbid, 
but, of whatever description the fear might be, it was 
in that painfully tender, that eagerly responsive state 
of mind that conversion was most easy. 

John Wesley was troubled more by the sin of fear 
than by the fear of hell, but, of course, the admission 
that he was no Christian let in the hem of that terrible 
vision. To Wesley, as to Dante, hell was no dim 
speculation, no incredible myth, no superstitious fancy, 
no relic of obsolete devil-worship, but a central and 
cardinal fact. Bohler said to him, Mi frater, mi 
frater, excoquenda est ista tua philosophia, and on 
this point Wesley did not philosophise too subtly. He 
resigned himself to the authority of the Bible, and 
the Bible said, and said repeatedly, " There is a hell." 

To the mere philosopher the subject is not free from 
difficulty. It is hard to reconcile the doctrine of per- 
petual retribution with the doctrine of divine com- 
passion. Doubtless, a mystic may say that hell is a 
mental and moral necessity, entailed by the measure- 
less ingratitude, the inexpiable crime of rejecting 
the love of God. This plea, however, is more ingen- 
uous than convincing. Few persons are conscious of 
such rejection. It will be urged that practical rejection 
takes place in every act of sin. That may be, but the 
insertion of the adjective enormously diminishes the 
offence. The paramount question is the motive, and, 
even in the worst of crimes, it is seldom that there is 
any blasphemous intention. 

However, let us do as Bohler suggests. Let us boil 
away our philosophy, and cleave to Revelation. Writing 
in the North American Review for April 1886, the late 
Mr. Gladstone remarked : " Menace, as well as promise, 


menace for those whom promise could not melt or 
move, formed an essential part of the provision for 
working out the redemption of the world. So far as 
my knowledge and experience go, we are in danger 
of losing this subject out of sight and out of mind. 
I am not now speaking of everlasting punishments 
in particular, but of all and any punishment ; and can 
it be right, can it be warrantable that the pulpit and 
the press should advisedly fall short of the standard 
established by the Holy Scriptures, and not less 
uniformly by the earliest and most artless period of 
hortatory Christian teaching ? " 

Wesley, at least, was secure from this reproach. He 
required that his disciples, if they would ascend into 
heaven, should first descend into hell. They were to 
descend into hell symbolically, in the miracle of Con- 
version, or the New Birth. Conversion did not mean 
simply amendment. Amendment there must be, but it 
was not the thing, the substance. It was an effect, a 
symptom, an outward and visible sign of a meta- 
physical, a psychological change. In the language 
of St. Paul, conversion was putting on the new man. 

The orthodox mode of achieving this result was 
to induce a general crisis signalised by emotional 
tumult and intellectual chaos. By austere denunciation 
of sin, by holding before his terrified fancy lurid 
visions of the Last Things, by insisting on his personal 
interest in the approach of the Day of Judgment, the 
sinner was plunged into a spiritual furnace, now aglow 
with white agony, now dull with black despair. 

This phase of the transforming process was described 
as " conviction of sin." No term was assigned for the 
duration of the phase. It might be a few hours, it 


might even be a few minutes, or it might be weeks. 
Relief came in a vivid perception of Christ, not only as 
the Saviour of the world, but as forgiving and loving 
the penitent himself. This blissful experience has 
been the object of his quest from the beginning, but 
the retrospect of the past, an appalling sense of his 
own demerits, has rendered him incredulous. It has 
seemed to him impossible that the record of daily, 
of hourly transgressions can be erased, that his league 
with Satan, his long rebellion against the Majesty 
of Heaven can be condoned. But at length he does 
believe this. He has saving faith. He has been 
soundly converted. The seeker is now held to have 
found the Saviour, to have found peace. Yes, truly ! 
After so many conflicts, so many doubts, he may well 
exclaim with Dante's imparadised progenitor, 

" Dal gran martirio venni a questa pace." x 

Probably it will be objected that this mode of 
regeneration translates into prose, and sometimes 
into not very elegant prose, the loftiest and most 
ethereal aspirations of the human soul, that it 
renders banal the spiritual processes of heroic and 
finely tempered natures endued with exquisite sensi- 
bility, with rare subtlety, with all that is compre- 
hended in that incomprehensible word " genius." The 
faculty of imagination, always inseparable from 
genius and often confounded with it, has led seers to 
clothe their thoughts, their feelings, their incessant 
broodings over the mysteries of being in the " simple 
and sensuous " language of poetry. 

Take, for instance, Newman's affecting lyric, " Lead, 
1 "Out of great martyrdom came I to this peace." 


kindly Light." The little poem, more prayer than 
homily, more reverie than reasoning, tells of a silent 
conflict arising out of the intrusion of intellectual 
doubt and the as yet ineffectual resistance of the 
moral axioms. It has been made a hymn, and is sung 
with unmistakable gusto by thousands of persons, who 
never have doubted and never will doubt. There is, 
however, a broad resemblance between the sentiments 
it defines and those of a person " under conviction of 

The Methodist type of conversion may be criticised 
as too mechanical, too much a matter of vogue and 
constraint, but it is a very silly and vulgar delusion 
that conversion of any and every sort is a proper 
subject for ridicule. People who affirm that, and tell 
you that it will do you no harm to be converted, stamp 
themselves as animals. Of course, conversion does not 
follow invariably the same lines, but, in the end, it 
always implies the same thing. The man or woman 
who has passed through this ordeal has begun his 
ascent towards the Eternal. 

Dante's experience seems to have been, like New- 
man's, a long, and gradual, and difficult transition from 
the night of doubt to the dawn of real faith. In the 
case of his countryman Manzoni the denouement was 
dramatic. It was a genuine example of instantaneous 
conversion. The Italian, already sickly, was wending 
his way through the streets of Paris when he was 
overtaken by sudden illness, and sought refuge in the 
Church of St. Roc. On recovering, he was awed by 
the mystery of the place, and received such an influx 
of spiritual consolation that he felt himself aflame 
with faith. According to Quintilian, penitence is 


more meritorious than innocence, and it may have 
oeen on that principle that Manzoni attached what 
many have deemed an exaggerated importance to this 
conversion. Indeed, his latest biographer, Signor Luca 
Bettrami, remarks that " instead of being a conversion 
in the true sense of the word, it was a spontaneous 
affirmation of what had been long ripening in the 
depth of that elect soul." 

What now is to be said of Wesley's conversion ? 
There is a partial, though not perfect, analogy between 
the two cases, inasmuch as neither Wesley nor Manzoni 
brought to the supreme moment a sullied reputation. 1 
So far as outward eyes could detect, they were both 
good men, but both looked back to their conversion as 
an epoch of infinite seriousness. Wesley's conversion, 
however, was in no sense spontaneous. He preached 
at St. Andrew's, Holborn, the strange doctrine of 
Justification by Faith before he had realised in him- 
self what it meant ; and for preaching it he was for- 
bidden the use of the church. His mentor encouraged 
the practice. " Preach faith," said Peter Bohler, " till 
you have it ; and then you will preach faith, because 
you have it." 

This admonition, a delicate morsel of Christian 
casuistry, leads Coleridge to observe, " Is not this too 
like, tell a lie long enough, and often enough, and you 
will be sure to end in believing it ? " However, the 
philosopher is not unjust. He adds, " And yet much 
may be said, where the moral interest of mankind 
demands it, and reason does not countermand, or 
where the Scripture seems expressly to assert it." 

1 Wesley's affair with Miss Hopkey was an instance rather of im- 
becility than of moral faultiness. 


The truth is that Wesley became intellectually con- 
vinced of the need of a specific change before he was 
personally cognisant of it by way of his emotions. 
He was in the position of having pledged himself to 
submit to the process, and meanwhile, in the words 
of the Psalter, he "tarried the Lord's leisure." He 
frankly rejoiced when his seraphic brother found that 
peace to which he was still a stranger, and incidentally 
he furnished a problem for Coleridge by recording 
that Charles, who was suffering from a second attack 
of pleurisy, recovered his strength from that hour. 

There is really nothing to condemn in this posture 
of anticipation, or, if there be anything, it is lack of 
reticence and reserve. But eccentric conduct may 
often be accounted for by eccentric company. Wesley 
freely consorted with the Moravians, and took the 
young bishop to Oxford, where their singular appear- 
ance provoked many a civil leer in the golden youth, 
and probably more boisterous demonstrations from 
men and women who were not golden. 

Always a gentleman, Wesley felt more concern for 
his companion than for himself, but Border's equan- 
imity remained unimpaired. Ridicule, he said, does 
not stick to the clothes. Now mud and rotten eggs 
do, but they attest a degree of exasperation that is, 
or ought to be, most consoling. Men like Pitt, and 
Fox, and the Duke of Wellington have to fly before 
a fusilade of filth. Verbal sarcasms, on the other 
hand, convey pure contempt, and therefore make a 
considerable draught on one's philosophy. Anyhow, 
Wesley was a seasoned veteran. Against these de- 
vices of the enemy the ex-curator of the Holy Club 
needed not to be animated by Peter Bolder. 


At length the Pentecostal grace was vouchsafed. 
Wesley, in his methodical or Methodistical way, had 
drawn up good resolutions, and assisted in forming a 
little society for the purpose of mutual edification. It 
was in connection with this little society that his con- 
version ultimately took place. "In the evening," he 
says, " I went very unwillingly to a society in Alders- 
gate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to 
the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before 
nine, while he was describing the change which God 
works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my 
heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, 
Christ alone, for salvation ; and an assurance was 
given me, that He had taken away my sins, even 
mine, and saved one from the law of sin and death." 

The precise date of this event, so fruitful in conse- 
quences for Wesley and the world, was the 24th May 
1738. About three weeks before, Bohler had departed 
for Carolina, but Wesley's first steps — and for a day 
or two they were feeble and full of hesitation, with no 
sense of joy — -were guided by another Moravian called 
Telchig. However, amidst tremors and tribulation, 
the prime object had been gained. Wesley, as he 
avers, had found peace. 1 It is scarcely necessary to 
point out the vast historical interest attaching to the 
circumstance that the Apostle of Germany had so 
large and direct a share in the conversion of the 
Apostle of England. 

This episode suggests several interesting questions. 
How did Wesley's state after his conversion differ from 
his state before his conversion? He has himself en- 

3 Wesley may have been "justified " on this occasion, but he had not, 
in any intelligible sense, found peace. See below. 


lightened us. " I was striving, yea, fighting with all 
my might under the law, as well as under grace. But 
then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered. Now I 
am always conqueror." His conflicts did not cease — 
he had manifold temptations — but through them all he 
was transfused with a consciousness of victory. Else- 
where he has defined the difference as that between 
slave and son. He had been a slave ; now he was a son. 

Is justification in this sense necessary to salvation ? 
That is a momentous problem, and Wesley evidently 
felt it to be momentous. Probably at the time he 
deemed instantaneous conversion, for him at least, in- 
dispensable. But, if the Moravians were in the right, 
what of his venerable father, who had so lately de- 
parted this life in the faith and fear of God ? What 
of his brother Samuel, his second father, who was so 
soon to reach the bourn ? The old Westminster boy 
and Tiverton schoolmaster was strongly opposed to the 
doctrine of assurance. As his epistles testify, he did 
not at all believe in it. Neither did William Law. 
Ten days before his conversion, Wesley, in one of 
those fits of gaucherie which so disfigure his career, 
addressed to his former guide a highly improper letter. 
He told him that Bbhler, of whose authority in these 
matters Law was profoundly unaware, thought his 
(Law's) condition most perilous, and concluded with the 
incredibly rude and dictatorial request, " Once more, 
sir, let me beg you to consider whether your extreme 
roughness, and morose and sour behaviour, at least on 
many occasions, can possibly be the fruit of a living 
faith in Christ ? " 

Wesley's Journals prove that his views as to the 
position of William Law, and as to justification in 


general, became greatly modified. In the mellow light 
of "old experience" he saw that the rash judgment of 
a young enthusiast like Bohler must not be implicitly 
received as divine inspiration. On Tuesday, Decem- 
ber 1, 1769, he wrote : " Being alone in the coach, I was 
considering several points of importance. And thus 
much appeared as clear as the day : — 

"That a man may be saved who cannot express 
himself properly concerning imputed righteousness. 
Therefore to do this is not necessary to salvation : 

" That a man may be saved who has not clear con- 
ceptions of it — yea, that never heard the phrase. There- 
fore clear conceptions of it are not necessary to salva- 
tion. Yea, it is not necessary to salvation to use the 
phrase at all : 

"That a pious churchman who has not clear con- 
ceptions even of justification by faith may be saved. 
Therefore clear conceptions even of this are not neces- 
sary to salvation : 

"That a mystic who denies justification by faith 
(Mr. Law, for instance) may be saved. But, if so, 
what becomes of the articulus stantis vel cadentis 
ecclesice ? Is it not high time for us 

1 Projicere ampullas et sesquipedalia verba,' 

and to return to the' plain word, ' He that f eareth God, 
and worketh righteousness, is accepted ' ? " 

Montaigne divided mankind into three classes — the 
simple, the sceptical, and the supremely wise and good. 
His words deserve to be quoted. He observes that 
"men of simple minds, devoid of curiosity and 
learning, are Christians through reverence and 
obedience, that minds of middle growth and moderate 


capacities are most prone to doubt and error, but 
that higher intellects, more clear-sighted and better 
grounded in knowledge, form a superior class of 
believers, who, through long and religious investiga- 
tions, arrive at the fountain of light in the Holy 
Scriptures, and feel the mysterious and divine meaning 
of our ecclesiastical doctrines. And we see some 
who reach this last stage through the second, with 
marvellous fruit and confirmation, and who, having 
attained the extreme limit of Christian intelligence, 
enjoy their success with modesty and thanksgiving; 
unlike those men of another stamp, who, in order to 
clear themselves of the suspicions arising from past 
errors, become violent, indiscreet, unjust, and throw 
discredit on the cause they pretend to serve." 

Wesley's adversaries would not have scrupled to 
apply these epithets — " violent," " indiscreet," " unjust," 
and " throwing discredit on the cause he pretended to 
serve " — to the great evangelist himself, and after that 
letter to William Law, who shall say that they would 
have been wholly inapposite ? In the meanwhile, 
what about Wesley's adversaries ? It is hardly too 
much to assert that they were comprised in two 
enormous categories — the Church and the World. 
In England those compartments were not water- 
tight. The partition between them had largely broken 
down, or was in constant danger of breaking down, 
not because the world was too good, but because the 
Church was not good enough. Wesley's Apjieals are 
documents of singular value, as showing what the 
Church of England had become. It had become a 
" wheel of State." It had become Caesar's. That the 
Church should be at least conterminous with the 


nation is a high and noble ideal to which men should 
be ready to sacrifice the strongest personal likings. 
That the most sacred offices, and especially Holy 
Communion, should be prostituted to political ends, 
was an ignoble ideal, and no wonder Wesley kicked at 
it. He had acted foolishly towards Mrs. Williamson, 
but, unless you insist on purely conjectural motives, he 
had, in a moral sense, been guilty only of trop de zele. 
With most ministers of the Anglican Church the 
opposite was the case. If all clergymen had been as 
punctual and conscientious as Wesley, Mrs. William- 
son would have had immeasurably less reason to 
complain. It is probable that not a few — for they 
were not all ungodly and unholy men — would have 
preferred a higher standard of duty. But they dared 
not embrace, still less enforce, such a standard, for to 
attempt this spelt martyrdom. 

If ever there was a man of whom it might be said 
that he adorned his profession, it was the late Mr. 
Matthew Arnold's favourite, Bishop Wilson. He took 
immense pains in educating his clergy, and, if the 
general condition of the Church was as Swift has 
described, may well be regarded as a redeeming feature. 
Now it so happened that the identical problem, to find 
which Wesley went deliberately out of his way, pre- 
sented itself to Wilson in the ordinary course of duty. 

It is a miserable story. Madam Home, the wife of 
the Governor of the Isle of Man, confided to Arch- 
deacon Horrobin that she had witnessed impropriety 
between Sir James Poole and a gentlewoman named 
Puller. On the faith of this statement, the arch- 
deacon repelled the lady from the Lord's Table. Not 
to be outdone, the accused parties addressed themselves 


to Bishop Wilson. On investigation the charge could not 
be proved, and had all the look of a malicious invention. 
Sir James Poole and Mistress Puller both denied it on 
oath, and, by way of reparation, Madam Home was 
called on to acknowledge her fault " privately, before 
the vicar of the parish," at the same time " asking for- 
giveness for the great injury done." Madam Home, on 
her husband's advice, declined to do anything of the 
sort, and sentence was pronounced excluding her from 
Holy Communion until such time as her offence should 
have been purged. The archdeacon, who was also 
chaplain to the governor, disregarded this decree of his 
bishop. Thereupon the bishop suspended the archdeacon. 

The archdeacon's course was now clear. If he 
deemed himself oppressed, the obvious authority to 
invoke was the Archbishop of York. Horrobin could 
have had none of the instincts of a churchman, or he 
would not have hesitated what to do. Probably, he 
never did. At any rate, he appealed to his friend 
Captain Home, and Captain Home obliged his friend 
the archdeacon by finding that the bishop had 
exceeded his powers and by fining Wilson £50 and 
his vicars-general £20 each. As all three refused to 
pay, the man of war sent a party of soldiers to arrest 
them, and Bishop Wilson, Dr. Walker, and Mr. 
Curghay were kept closely confined in the prison of 
Castle Rushin for nine weeks. 

The moral of this story is evident. The internal 
discipline of the Church was too lax, and the con- 
nection between Church and State too close. This 
admission does not imply that there should be no 
connection between Church and State. Scotland, too, 
had its religious establishment, but in Scotland they 


managed otherwise. It is interesting to compare 
Convocation, as it existed before its "perpetual" 
suspension in the eighteenth century, with the General 
Assembly. " Take from us," said Knox, " the liberty of 
Assemblies, and take from us the Evangel, for without 
Assemblies, how shall good order and unity of doctrine 
be kept?" Convocation had nothing to do with 
doctrine or order, but, whilst it lasted, it gave oppor- 
tunities for informal consultation, and that was some- 
thing. But it was not liberty, or anything like liberty. 
Wilson's career suggests another consideration. 
Both before and after his appointment as bishop, he 
repeatedly refused valuable livings on the ground that 
the acceptance of them would have conflicted with 
" the resolves of his conscience against non-residence." 
Few of his contemporaries shared these resolves, and, 
as the necessary consequence, churches were served by 
starving deputies, or served irregularly. 

"For a few weeks the pluralist may sport, 
But spends his happier hours at cards and court ; 
Leaving his curate to the rustic taunt 
Against church livings he must ever want. 
Fanatics, infidels, and tythemen's jars 
The parish fill with hatred, vice, and wars." 

No doubt there were exceptions. The Vicar of 
Wakefield was not, "could not have been, unique. Not 
to wander afield — Epworth, in the time of the Rev. 
Samuel Wesley, offered a shining example of a parish 
priest doing his duty not only as a parish priest, but 
like a soldier. However, the system was against him. 
He was unpopular. If he reformed Epworth, we 
know what Epworth was long after his first arrival. 
Dissent was played out. John Furz, an early 


disciple and "half-itinerant" of Wesley, gives an 
amusing — or perhaps one should say, saddening — 
account of the way its priests — after the order of St. 
Paul — comported themselves in the rural parishes. 
Furz and his first convert had heard that a company 
of Dissenters met at a private house on Sunday 
evenings. Accordingly, the ardent Methodists repaired 
thither in the hope and expectation of a spiritual 
feast. What did they find ? They found ten persons 
sitting round a table, and on the table were a Bible, a 
newspaper, a decanter, and glasses. And what were 
the religious exercises ? " First they ridiculed the 
vicar, etc. ; next they drank one to another, and offered 
the glass to us, but we did not drink. Then they 
related the faults of the churchwardens and the 
overseers of the poor, .till one read part of the news- 
paper, which gave occasion to discourse on the state of 
the nation. At last one of them read a chapter in the 
Bible ; another, looking at his watch, said, ' Bless me, 
it is time to go home ; it is past ten o'clock ! ' ' But,' 
said one, ' we ought to go to prayer first.' But they 
were not agreed which of them should pray. 1 At last 

1 This reminds ua of Charles Lamb's observations in the Essays of 
Elia. "In houses where the grace is as indispensable as the napkin, 
who has not seen that never settled question arise, as to who shall say 
it ; while the good man of the house and the visitor clergyman, or 
some other guest belike of next authority from years or gravity, shall 
bandy about the office between them as a matter of compliment, each of 
them not unwilling to shift the awkward burden of an equivocal duty 
from his own shoulders ? 

' ' I once drank tea in company with two Methodist divines of 
different persuasions, whom it was my fortune to introduce to each other 
for the first time that evening. Before the first cup was handed round, 
one of these reverend gentlemen put it to the other with all due 
solemnity, whether he chose to say anything. It seems it is the custom 


one of them stood up against a back of a chair, spoke 
a few words and concluded. My friend and I were 
kneeling together. I was weary with forbearing, and 
began earnestly to pray that God would awaken them, 
and by His goodness lead them to repentance, that they 
might know the things that belonged to their ever- 
lasting peace. They turned about and stared at me, as 
if I had been speaking Greek. However, they told us 
that we should be welcome to come again the next 
Sunday evening." 

To retuiv to the Church of England. No respect 
for this ancient Church could possibly survive that 
reductio ad absurdum — the Test and Corporation 
Acts. These Acts may have been, in a temporary 
sense, politic, but archbishops and bishops ought to 
have been good enough, and brave enough, to have 
scorned advantages. They should have shown them- 
selves jealous for the honour of the sacred rite. That 
they failed to do so is eloquent of the depth to which 
religion in England had fallen. 

Who was to blame ? Most candid and unbiassed 
judges would answer — the clergy ; but the Rev. Henry 
Thomson, M.A., author of a Life of Hannah More, 
whilst admitting the disagreeable nature of the facts, 
has come to another conclusion. The true criminals 
were, he thinks, the- people ! For a choice instance of 
special pleading commend us to the following : — 

'The rbolition of the 'daily sacrifice' of prayer and 

with some sectaries to put up a short prayer before this meal also. His 
reverend brother did not at first apprehend him, but upon an explana- 
tion, with little less importance he made answer, that it was not a 
custom known in his church ; in which courteous evasion the other 
acquiescing for good manners' sake, or in compliance with a weak 
brother, the supplementary or tea grace was waived altogether." 


thanksgiving in every church but the cathedral; the 
non-observance by public worship of those public days 
of joy and humiliation which the Church had conse- 
crated in her purest times ; the contraction of the Sab- 
bath services into one only in some churches, and their 
alternate total suspension in some others; the distant in- 
tervals at which the life-giving grace of the Eucharist is, 
in most churches, afforded — all those things are much 
less referable to the inattention of the clergyman than to 
the non-attendance of the people. When the daily sacri- 
fice was wholly deserted ; when the Sabbath morning 
service in the country, and the evening in towns, was 
abandoned also ; when he bade the congregation to the 
Lord's Table, and ' they all with one consent began to 
make excuse ' ; it is at least nothing wonderful that he 
should have gradually foregone the unmeaning cere- 
mony of presenting himself in the temple, where not 
even ' two or three ' could be gathered to meet him in 
the name of the Saviour." 

This is, to be sure, a very comfortable and charitable 
view of what was in fact gross dereliction of duty. 
One law for the army, another for the Church — that 
is the essence of it. Had Zephaniah or some equally 
stern, old-fashioned moralist been ordered to report on 
the Church of England in those days of decadence, he 
might have thundered, "Her prophets are light and 
treacherous persons — her priests have polluted the 
sanctuary — they have done violence to the law." 

Let us, however, be fair, and remember that religion 
has at all times a more or less precarious hold on the 
fashionable class. To people of that sort, society, the 
world, is a profession, a career. They know no other. 
It is the be-all and end-all of their existence — that is, 


if they are very fashionable. Religion, however, has 
usually secured, even from worldlings, an outward, 
a nominal homage. This homage, in the eighteenth 
century, it had either lost or was fast losing. The 
abbe, or his English equivalent, was abroad, and though 
not perhaps irredeemably bad, was no particular succour 
to the Church. When he did not jest on religion — and 
in his merry moods such jesting came not amiss — he 
would reprove the jester in a tone of politest raillery. 
The classical authority on the subject is, of course, 
Montesquieu. The author of the Lettres Persanes and 
friend of Chesterfield, who visited the country in 1732, 
was shocked at the lengths to which matters had gone. 
" There is no such thing as religion in England," wrote 
he; "if one speaks of religion, everybody begins to 

If regard was shown for religion anywhere, by 
anybody, it was shown by the vestal virgin, when she 
could no more dissemble her antiquity, and in the 
country. Cowper, who exclaimed, " Hark, my soul, it 
is the Lord ! " declaimed a satire entitled " Truth." 
These are some of the lines : 

"Yon ancient prude, whose wither 'd features show 
She might be young some forty years ago, 
Her elbows pinion'd close upon her hips, 
Her head erect, her fan upon her lips, 
Her eyebrows arch'd, her eyes both gone astray 
To watch yon amorous couple in their play, 
With bony and unkerchief'd neck defies 
The rude inclemency of wintry skies, 
And sails with lappet head and mincing airs, 
Duly, at clink of bell, to morning pray'rs. 

She half an angel in her own account, 
Doubts not hereafter with the saints to mount, 


Though not a grace appears, on strictest search, 

But that she fasts, and item goes to church. 

Conscious of age, she recollects her youth, 

And tells, not always with an eye to truth, 

Who spann'd her waist, and who, where'er he came, 

Scrawl'd upon glass Miss Bridget's lovely name ; 

Who stole her slipper, fill'd it with tokay, 

And drank the little bumper ev'ry day. 

Of temper as envenom'd as an asp ; 

Censorious, and her ev'ry word a wasp ; 

In faithful memory she records the crimes 

Or real or fictitious, of the times ; 

Laughs at the reputations she has torn, 

And holds them dangling, at arm's length, in scorn." 

This Gorgon is eternal, — since the world began there 
have always been Miss Bridgets, — but she is typical of 
the eighteenth century as a residuum, as a last refuge 
of religion in a land whence, according to Montesquieu, 
white-winged Faith had altogether flown. Hannah 
More, whose ingenious biographer has been already 
cited, intimates that religion, even the most super- 
ficial, was subject to geographical limitations. Burke 
had said that " the humanity of Britain is a humanity 
of points and parallels." "Ccelebs" discovered that 
the Christianity of Britain was a Christianity of 
longitudes and latitudes. 

"I was concerned to remark that two or three 
gentlemen whom I had observed to be very regular 
in their attendance on public worship in the country, 
seldom went to church in London ; in the afternoon 
never. ' Religion,' they said, by way of apology, ' was 
entirely a thing of example. It was of great political 
importance. Society was held together by the re- 
straints it imposed on the lower orders. When they 
were in the country, it was highly proper that their 


tenants and workmen should have the benefit of their 
example, but in London the case was different. Where 
there were so many churches, no one knew whether 
you went or not, and where no scandal was given, no 
harm was done.' " 

Wesley was so constituted that he could not away 
with merely conventional religion. He called persons 
who professed Christianity, whilst ignoring its pre- 
cepts, "devil-Christians." He was indebted for this 
description to the American Indians, whose morals 
were of a superior order. The woods, it seems, of the 
New World echoed with such cries as — "Christian 
much drunk ! " " Christian beat men ! " " Christian tell 
lies ! " " Devil Christian ! " " Me no Christian ! " Wesley's 
critics returned the compliment. "Look at their 
countenances, as they go to the House of Prayer. 
They appear to be going to serve, not God, but the 
devil. No joy, no pleasing hopes, painted there ; but 
dejected, clouded, dark, and melancholy, they are 
unlike the worshippers of the Father of Mankind, 
a God of infinite Goodness, the God of all Comfort and 

There was probably much truth in this accusation 
of seriousness. Persons labouring under conviction of 
sin could not be expected to look gay, and frequent 
attendance at evangelistic services was bound to pro- 
duce a grave, a thoughtful, and even a rigid mien. 
Only reflect, however, what it must have been to be 
responsible as citizens, as members of the great human 
brotherhood, as Christians for the eighteenth century. 
It was a brutal age. Hogarth, in his Rake's Progress, 
his Harlot's Progress, and his Gin Lane has preserved 
for us some of its more hateful features, and the very 


success of the caricaturist is full of meaning. The 
conditions of the time lent him every assistance. 1 
Then the cheapness of human life, the bloody penal 
code, the infernal prison system, with its gaol fevers 
sapping the health, not only of the inmates, but of the 
whole community — how is it possible to apologise for 
such horrors ? Or take the army. To order a wretch 
a thousand lashes was deemed in no way inconsistent 
with either religion or humanity. Of course, the dis- 
cipline was inflicted in instalments, thus adding to 
the agonies of the hour the terrors of instructed 

It would not be difficult to supplement this account, 
already too long, by many more pages, but there is no 
need. Whatever may be thought of Wesley's tactics, 
and making every allowance for satire and caricature, 
it is clear that a reformation was demanded, and could 

1 It is a curious and interesting point how far Hogarth's delineations 
aided the reformers of the time. The natural tendency of his labours 
as an artist was to make men reflect, and thus they must have helped, 
it is impossible to say in what degree, Wesley's missionary labours. 
The following extract, however, from Smith's Life of Nollekens seems 
to show that the contribution was undesigned. "Great as Hogarth 
was in his display of every variety of character, I should never think of 
exhibiting a portfolio of his prints to the youthful inquirer ; nor can I 
agree that the man who was so accustomed to visit, so fond of delineat- 
ing, and who gave up so much of his time to the vices of the most 
abandoned classes, was in truth a 'moral teacher of mankind.' My 
father knew Hogarth well, and I have often heard him declare that he 
revelled in the company of the drunken and profligate : Churchill, 
Wilkes, Hayman, etc., were among his constant companions. Dr. John 
Hoadly, though in my opinion it reflected no credit on him, delighted 
in his company ; but he did not approve of all the prints produced by 
him, particularly that of the First State of Enthusiasm Displayed, which, 
had Mr. Garrick or Dr. Johnson seen, they could never for a moment 
have entertained their high esteem of so irreligious a character." 


be achieved only by extraordinary methods. To apply 
such methods there must be an extraordinary man, 
and certainly Wesley was that. Southey had studied 
that marvellous character, had marked its virtues, had 
noted its defects, and what was his conclusion ? He 
wrote to Wilberforce, "I consider him as the most 
influential mind of the last century ; the man who 
will have produced the greatest effects centuries or, 
perhaps, millenniums hence, if the present race of men 
should continue so long." If there is any truth in 
those words, it is no pointless compliment to have 
styled Wesley, as was done earlier, the Apostle of 

It has been said that Wesley, like all great men, 
possessed moral fibre. Just as he persisted in remain- 
ing at Oxford despite the wishes of his family, just as 
he sailed for Georgia despite the ridicule of the wise 
man, so now he became an apostle notwithstanding 
the jokes of his Uncle Matthew. This wonderful 
uncle — a wealthy and generous Dissenting physician 
practising in London — had a trick of turning up at 
critical junctures in the lives of his nephews and 
nieces, usually as a good genie and moderator of 
parental severity. In conversation he was inclined to 
be cynical. Once, when Charles Wesley was dining with 
him, he " bestowed abundance of wit " on John Wesley's 
"apostolical project." He observed that when the 
French found "any remarkably dull fellow among 
them, they sent him to convert the Indians." Charles 
disliked this vein, and replied, 

"To distant lands the apostles need not roam, 
Darkness, alas ! and heathens are at home." 

This answer silenced Mr. Matthew, who thereupon 


refrained from vexing his nephew by further allu- 
sions to his "brother's apostleship." 

When Meissonier was painting a snowy road in 
his picture of Napoleon in 1814 he used salt for 
model. The Russian artist Vassili Verestchagin won- 
dered at this procedure, and, chatting on the subject, 
remarked, " If I had been you, I should have gone to 
Russia, and painted a study from nature." " Yes, but," 
Meissonier replied, "nous autres Parisiens do not 
move about so easily." Wesley was not like Meissonier. 
Although locomotion of every kind was infinitely 
harder than it became after the introduction of steam 
power, he did not object to a matter of a few hundred 
or a few thousand miles, provided that he had satisfied 
himself as to the necessity or propriety of the journey. 
He wished to matriculate for his apostleship, and he 
could matriculate nowhere but in Germany. Even 
before quitting Georgia, he had had thoughts of visit- 
ing the well of evangelical truth. Now, without more 
ado, he went. 

Mention has been made of the emigration of the 
United Brethren from Moravia and Bohemia under 
stress of persecution. One party, led by Christian 
David, sought and obtained leave from Count Zinzen- 
dorf to settle in Saxony The young Pietist, who had 
been educated by Professor Franke at Halle, was busy 
wooing Countess Erdmuth Dorothea Reuss. However, 
his major-domo was a capable as well as pious func- 
tionary, and chose a site near Hutberg, on the high 
road to Zittau. Probably the name had somethingito 
do with the choice — there was not much to recommend 
it — for the major-domo, in his report, waxed thus 
witty : " May God bless the work according to His 


loving-kindness, and grant that your Excellency may 
build a city on Watch Hill (Hutberg), which may not 
only stand under the Lord's watchfulness, but where 
all the inhabitants may stand on the watch of the Lord 
(Herrn Hut)." So they called the name of that town 
Herrnhut. The colony was the goal of Wesley's pil- 

It was now 1738, and Count Zinzendorf, no longer 
impeded by love and courtship, was easily accessible. 
Zinzendorf was an eighteenth-century Tolstoi with- 
out, apparently, any of Tolstoi's genius. He had 
abdicated his rank, and was a great advocate of 
simplicity. He considered that Wesley — always a 
gentleman — had something to learn in this respect. 
So he set him to dig in his shirt-sleeves. When 
Wesley was in a high state of perspiration, Zinzen- 
dorf entered the garden, told him that the carriage 
was waiting, and, having announced that he was about 
to call on a certain noble of the neighbourhood, com- 
manded his guest to accompany him. The neophyte 
was not unwilling, but wanted to wash his hands and 
put on his coat. The Count, however, forbade. He 
was to go just as he was. "You must be simple 
brother." Wesley was more than simple — he obeyed. 
Southey rejects this story on the ground that Zinzen- 
dorf had been in England, and knew better ; but there 
is not much in that argument. The Count was evi- 
dently eccentric. As regards Wesley at least — the 
hero of the Hopkey adventure — the story has much 

In America Wesley, in accordance with Anglican 
use and the dictates of his unenlightened conscience, 
had refused a Moravian the privilege of Holy Com- 


munion. The tables were now turned. The Moravians 
allowed his companion-in-travel, Mr. Ingham, to com- 
municate, but not Wesley. The motive, however, was 
not revenge. " The congregation saw him to be a 
homo perturbatus, and that his head had gained an 
ascendency over his heart." Moreover, " they were 
desirous not to interfere with his plan of effecting good 
as a clergyman of the English Church." 

These events occurred before Wesley's arrival at 
Herrnhut. He reached that primitive settlement on 
August 1, and spent a fortnight there. During most 
of the time he was occupied in listening to the exposi- 
tions of Christian David and other eminent professors 
of evangelical doctrine. David was a remarkable man. 
Like the Founder of Christianity, he was a carpenter, 
and, in the intervals of his missionary labours, worked 
at his trade. The Jesuits of Moravia called him the 
" bush-preacher," which was better than if they had 
called him a " bush-ranger." However, he was some- 
thing of a ranger. He had travelled in Holland, in 
England, in Denmark, and even in Greenland. Me- 
chanic as he was, he was not ashamed to stand before 
princes and governors, and in Denmark he had preached 
before the court. This humble teacher became Wesley's 
new oracle. On the 3rd of August he writes : " This 
evening Christian David came hither. O may God 
make him a messenger of glad tidings ! " 

This, however, was not precisely the design of Pro- 
vidence. The Moravians had been right in describing 
their visitor as a homo perturbatus, and nothing that he 
heard from David, or Linner, or Nitschmann, or Dbber, 
or Neusser, or Schneider tended to make him anything 
else. Wesley's chief desideratum was assurance of 


pardon, and all these authorities agreed in stating that, 
according to their experience, years must elapse before 
the witness of the Spirit banished doubt and fear. 
This was bad news for Wesley, who had come to Ger- 
many in the hope of receiving " glad tidings " on this 
particular topic. Otherwise he seems to have enjoyed 
his travels. His spiritual perplexities had no effect on 
his general acumen and faculty of observation. In- 
deed, as we have seen, it was partly on this pretext 
that the Moravians excluded him from Communion. 
At Dresden he inspected, at somebody's desire, the 
great bridge, the large brass crucifix, and the equestrian 
statue of the late King Augustus; but he deems it 
necessary to apologise by ejaculating, " Alas ! where 
will all these things appear when the earth and the 
works thereof shall be burned up ? " 



Glad Tidings — Love-Feasts — Suggestions of the Enemy — Real 
Methodist Love — George Whitefield — Girl's Clothes — Glam- 
our of the Stage — Whitefield as Servitor — Conversion — 
Ordination — At Dummer — Popularity — Embarkation for 
America — Bishop Lavington — Cant — Methodist " Brides " — 
Elisabeth Wallbridge — Sydney Smith on Methodism — The 
Methodist " Confessional." 

At the outset of his manifesto — An Earnest Appeal to 
Men of Reason and Religion — Wesley lays down the 
cardinal principle of Christianity as a living and 
active force. 

" We see (and who does not ?) the numberless follies 
and miseries of our fellow-creatures. We see, on every 
side, either men of no religion at all, or men of a 
lifeless formal religion. We are grieved at the sight, 
and should greatly rejoice if by any means we might 
convince some that there is a better religion to be 
attained — a religion worthy of the God who gave it. 
And this we conceive to be no other than love ; the 
love of God and all mankind ; the loving God with all 
our heart, and soul, and strength, as having first loved 
us, as the fountain of all the good we have received, 
and of all we ever hope to enjoy ; and the loving every 



soul which God hath made, every man on earth, as 
our own soul. 

" This love we believe to be the medicine of life, the 
never-failing remedy for all the evils of a disordered 
world, for all the miseries and vices of men. Wherever 
this is, there are virtue and happiness going hand in 
hand. There is humbleness of mind, gentleness, long- 
suffering, the whole image of God; and at the same 
time a peace that passeth all understanding, and joy 
unspeakable and full of glory. 

" Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind ; 
Each prayer accepted, and each wish resign'd ; 
Desires composed, affections ever even, 
Tears that delight, and sighs that waft to heaven." 

These eloquent words show enthusiasm at its best, 
and the beautiful grace of charity, " the very bond of 
peace and of all virtue," is worthy of such enthusiasm. 
Than this grace it would be hard to imagine a better 
corrective of the spirit of competition rampant in all 
the more vigorous races, and tending to crush out 
noble ideals in the blind struggle for wealth and 

In Methodist polity love or charity had as its organ the 
love-feast based on the agape of the primitive Church, 
and this, perhaps more than any other of Wesley's 
institutions, gave occasion to the enemy to blaspheme. 
A gentleman whose youth was spent on the uplands 
where Somerset merges into Devon, well remembers 
the suspicion with which love-feasts were regarded by 
the country-folk. The name was full of suggestion, 
and it seemed incredible that an assembly of both 
sexes, brought together on this pretext, should rest 


content with quaffing a loving-cup, eating plain fare, 
and narrating the circumstances of their conversion. 

That disinterested regard — and this was all that 
Wesley intended by love in relation to his fellow- 
creatures — sometimes rotted and decayed into sinister 
passion, was an article of faith with many opponents 
of Methodism. Whether they really believed that 
Methodists were specially prone to the indulgence of 
amorous inclinations or made a show of believing it 
as a weapon of controversy, it is a fact that this un- 
pleasant accusation is constantly preferred, and that 
in a variety of grotesque forms. 1 Of all religious 
societies, it was said, the Methodists were exposed to 
the greatest temptations. The intercourse between 
the sexes was very frequent, very familiar, often very 
private. They were together at all hours of the day 
and night for the purpose of prayer and meditation. 
They travelled together to distant places under the 
shelter of religion. Their meetings were protracted 
to the latest hours of the night ; and friendship would 
not suffer them to expose helpless females without 
some male escort. No reflection was meant on the 
delicacy of these proceedings, but the Methodists were 
more than human, if all of them could resist such 

Such criticisms cannot be admitted for an instant. 
Admit them, and you effectually destroy the pleasures 
of social intercourse. In the words of the genial 
Roman poet : 

1 The Rev. Dr. Free wrote : " In the remote countries of England, I 
have seen a whole troop of these divines on horseback, travelling with 
each a sister behind him." "0 Sir, Sir," replied Wesley, 
"'What should be great you turn to farce.'" 


" Hie nigrse succus loliginis ; hsec est 
Aerugo mera." 1 

And it is to be regretted that the anonymous critic, 
instead of ladling out abominable insinuations, did not 
seek to emulate the laudable resolution : 

"Quod vitium procul afore chartis, 
Atque amnio prius, ut si quid promittere de me 
Possum aliud vere, promitto." 2 

It is safe to allege that the average man of the 
world will require better "reasonings" than these 
before he will believe that young Methodists, in- 
doctrinated with notions of hell and eternal retribution, 
were less fortified against sins of the flesh than the 
gay ladies and gentlemen who danced away the night 
in Grosvenor Square and in many a provincial assembly- 

George Eliot could speak of Methodism at first hand. 
The time of her novel Adam Bede is not much later 
than that of A Review of the Policy, Doctrines, and 
Morals of the Methodists, and the noble description it 
contains for the love of the young carpenter for Dinah 
is the best reply to the malignant aspersions of 
anonymous assailants. " He was but three-and-twenty, 
and had only just learnt what it is to love — to love 
with that adoration which a young man gives to a 
woman whom he feels to be greater and better than 
himself. Love of this sort is hardly distinguishable 
from religious feeling. What deep and worthy love 
is so ? whether of woman or child, or art or music. 

1 This is the juice of the black cuttle-fish ; this is pure verdigris. 
s Which vice I promise shall be far from my sheets, and from my 
mind before, if, that is, I can promise aught truly concerning myself. 


Our caresses, our tender words, our still raptures under 
the influence of autumn sunsets, or pillared vistas, or 
calm majestic statues, or Beethoven Symphonies, all 
bring with them the consciousness that they are mere 
waves and ripples in an unfathomable ocean of love 
and beauty ; our emotion in its keenest moment passes 
from expression into silence, our love at its highest 
flood rushes beyond its object, and loses itself in the 
sense of divine mystery. 

" And this blessed gift of venerating love has been 
given to too many humble craftsmen since the world 
began, for us to feel any surprise that it should have 
existed in the soul of a Methodist carpenter half a 
century ago, while there was yet a lingering after- 
glow from the time when Wesley and his fellow- 
labourer fed on the hips and haws of Cornwall, after 
exhausting limbs and lungs in carrying a divine 
message to the poor." 

Nature, it has been clearly demonstrated, never 
intended Wesley for a lover, but the opposite is true 
of his "fellow-labourer." George Whitefield, more 
passionate, less severe than Wesley, has been called 
the Luther of the movement of which Wesley was the 
Calvin. He was, in the truest sense, a filius terras. ; 
there was no element of distinction in his early sur- 
roundings. 1 Indeed, he was born, in 1714, at the Bell 
Inn in the city of Gloucester; and at a time when the 
future lacked outline, perspective, and even direction, 
learnt to keep inn himself. In a very honest bit of 
autobiography he informs us that he " put on his blue 
apron and his snuffers " — what artistic habiliment is 

1 Whitefield, however, was of respectable descent. The family had 
gone down in the world. 


intended by " snuffers," can only be conjectured ; 
possibly, as Southey suggests, it is a misprint for 
another low-English term scoggers, signifying " sleeves " 
— "washed mops, cleaned rooms, and became a pro- 
fessed and common drawer." 

Washing mops and cleaning rooms were not actions 
of which Whitefield felt that he had cause to be 
ashamed, and herein he is supported by the shadow of 
a great name. 

"Who sweeps a room as to the Lord, 
Makes that and the action fine." 

There was, however, one boyish freak, the remembrance 
of which, he says, had often covered him with con- 
fusion of face, and, though there was not then, perhaps, 
much danger of a relapse, he hoped it would do so even to 
the end of his life. Finding his boys wild about acting, 
the master of the grammar-school had been gracious 
enough to write a play. This play was performed 
before the corporation, and Whitefield, dressed in girl's 
clothes, took the part of a woman. Hence the con- 
fusion of face. Betterton would have liked White- 
field for that. Until Davenant and he introduced the 
Continental fashion, the English practice had always 
been to assign the female parts to boys, who were, in 
this way, early dispossessed of their manhood. The 
case of their successors, however, left much to be 
desired. Their natural modesty was ignored, and they 
were thrust into parts to clasp and be clasped, to kiss 
and be kissed, sometimes by three or four different men. 
A boy of ingenuous face and ingenuous modesty, 
Whitefield nevertheless felt, and felt strongly, the 
perennial attractions of the stage. For him, as for so 


many, it was poetry in action. His digression into 
girl's clothes, and the penitential smart that followed, 
by no means cured him of the malady. Even the 
counter-attractions of religion were for a time in- 
effectual. When he was sixteen, he prayed many 
times a day, received the sacrament every Sunday, 
and during Lent almost destroyed himself with his 
rigorous fasting, but still he hankered. "I had a 
mind to be upon the stage, but then I had a qualm of 
conscience. I used to ask people, ' Pray, can I be a 
player, and yet go to the sacrament, and be a Chris- 
tian ? ' ' Oh,' said they, ' such a one, who is a player, 
goes to the sacrament, though, according to the law of 
the land, no player should receive the sacrament, 
unless they repent. This was Archbishop Tillotson's 
doctrine.' ' Well then, if that be the case,' said I, ' I 
will be a player.' And I thought to act my part for 
the devil, as well as anybody ; but, blessed be God, He 
stopped me in my journey." 

Instead of going on the stage, Whitefield went back 
to school, and, at eighteen, obtained a servitorship at 
Oxford. It is a good thing that such institutions as 
servitorships have had their day, and ceased to be, but, 
whilst they existed, they seem to have suited some 
students, of whom Whitefield was one. As we have 
seen, he was used to washing mops and cleaning rooms, 
and his services were therefore preferred to those of 
awkward and shamefaced men, who thought them- 
selves born for higher uses. 

Whitefield had heard of the Methodists before he 
went to Oxford, but, though a despised set, they were 
Students and Fellows — men of birth and breeding. The 
humble servitor, therefore, was constrained to keep his 


distance. But, all the while, he felt intense sympathy 
with them, and rejoiced when an opportunity occurred 
of making their acquaintance. A pauper had sought 
to flee this present evil world by suicide ; and White- 
field despatched a messenger to Charles Wesley as a 
fit and proper person to administer reproof and con- 
solation. The servitor strictly charged the woman not 
to reveal his name, but the woman did. It happened 
that the sender was known to Charles Wesley by 
repute, and, notwithstanding the awkward disparity 
of rank, the student of Christ Church thought he 
might safely ask him to breakfast. He went, and 
Wesley put into his hands a book called The Life of 
God in the Soul of Man, the perusal of which con- 
vinced Whitefield that he must be born again or 

Naturally, the discovery of the choice threw the 
impressionable young man into a state of extreme 
terror and anguish. His sensations are hardly to be 
imagined. He suffered from a feeling of constriction, 
" like a man locked up in iron armour," or, perhaps one 
may suggest, in the folds of "that old serpent, the 
devil." x For whole days and weeks he lay prostrate 
on the ground in silent or audible prayer. That his 
outer man might exhibit some conformity to his inner, 
he left off powdering his hair, wore woollen gloves, 
and went about in a patched gown and dirty shoes. 
His patrons did not approve of these voluntary humilia- 
tions, and he lost their support. 

Even this did not suffice. To the external defacement 
of the "ass," as St. Thomas Aquinas contemptuously 
designates the body, Whitefield must add ruinous tests 

1 Rev. xx. 2. 


of constitutional strength. The pious Israelites 

Christians before Christ — " wandered about in sheep- 
skins and goat-skins." " Destitute, afflicted, tormented," 
they sojourned " in deserts and in mountains, and in 
dens and caves of the earth." But these evils they could 
not help, or, if they could, only by the sacrifice of their 

Whitefield was differently situated. He was under 
no clear necessity, whether moral or physical, to copy 
their self - denial, at any rate their special modes. 
There was properly no reason why he should kneel, 
shivering, under the trees in Christ Church meadow ; 
why he should suffer his hands to blacken with the 
cold ; why he should starve for forty days on coarse 
bread and sage tea without sugar. No Methodist in 
these times would affirm such things to be necessary 
or advantageous, and a review of the circumstances 
may well excuse the suspicion that Whitefield, like 
Simeon Stylites, was determined to shorten his life 
by disease. If that was his object, he was successful. 
Anyhow, he brought on a "fit of sickness," which 
lasted seven weeks, and for which he trusted he should 
be grateful through the endless ages of eternity. 

When the seventh week was drawing to a close, 
Whitefield found peace. Supposing the fit of sickness 
to have been really a condition of redemption, the 
poor servitor was right in deeming the price of that 
peace and that redemption extremely cheap. He found, 
however, not only peace, but — what Wesley could not 
find, or could find only after a long time — joy and 
assurance. When Whitefield looked back to that day, 
the rapturous feelings returned and burst forth in a 
passion of eloquence. " But oh ! with what joy, joy 


unspeakable, even joy that was full of and big with 
glory, was my soul filled, when the weight of sin went 
off, and an abiding sense of the pardoning love of God, 
and a full assurance of faith, broke in upon my dis- 
consolate soul ! Surely it was the day of my espousals 
— a day to be had in everlasting remembrance." At 
this period neither John nor Charles Wesley knew 
anything of conversion. The pupil had outstripped 
his masters. 

When the " great twin brethren " — spiritually twin 
— quitted England for the wilds of Georgia, their 
offspring, the Holy Club — never a very healthy bant- 
ling — was in danger of collapse. It wanted a " curator," 
and though Whitefield was obviously qualified for the 
post, it is possible that his modesty and humility 
might have hindered his coming forward, if Sir 
James Philips, of London, had not taken the matter 
vigorously in hand. Whitefield was deserving, but 
he was poor. He was not likely to win a fellowship^ 
and the problem was how to maintain him in his 
" curatorship." This problem was solved by the gen- 
erosity of Sir John Philips, who gave him a pension of 
twenty pounds a year, to be increased to thirty, if he 
would stay at Oxford. 

The next event of importance was his ordination. 
In order that his heafth might be more firmly estab- 
lished, Whitefield was recommended to seek his native 
air. At Gloucester he visited the poor, and prayed 
with the prisoners, and in these and other ways drew 
the regards of the bishop, Dr. Benson. Whitefield was 
still only twenty-one, but the bishop, in a chat after 
evening service, informed him that, though he made 
it a rule not to receive candidates under the age of 


twenty-three, he should esteem it his duty to admit 
him to orders, whenever he thought fit to apply for 
them. Accordingly, Whitefield was ordained. With 
reference to the " laying on of hands," Whitefield uses 
some remarkable expressions. He says, "I can call 
heaven and earth to witness that, when the bishop 
laid his hand upon me, I gave myself up to be a 
martyr for Him who hung upon the cross for me." 
The martyrs of Methodism — some of them, at least — 
will receive attention in the following chapter. They 
were true martyrs, and died for the faith. The 
Wesleys and Whitefield — in a larger than the ecclesi- 
astical sense — might also have claimed to be martyrs. 
They, it is true, were neither burnt nor beheaded, but 
they boldly proclaimed unpalatable doctrines, and 
challenged — not once nor twice, but all their lives 
long — the fury of the populace. On due considera- 
tion, it seems nothing short of a miracle that the 
three heroes died at last in their beds. 

Whitefield's first essays presaged not persecution, 
but popularity. His maiden sermon was preached in 
the church of St. Mary de Crypt, where he had been 
baptized, and his histrionic training — not to mention 
his exhortations at Oxford — now stood him in good 
stead. There was a large congregation, naturally, and 
Whitefield spoke with unction. His audience was pro- 
foundly impressed. It was afterwards reported to the 
bishop, probably by some envious fellow-citizen, that 
the sermon had driven fifteen people mad. Dr. Benson, 
however, was quite unmoved by this statement, and 
expressed the hope that the " madness " might not be 
forgotten before the following Sunday. 

Gloucester seemed a promising field, but the same 


week Whitefield returned to Oxford, and entered on 
his " curatorship." This charge was not, as he had 
imagined, destined to be for long. Soon he was found 
at the Tower Chapel in London, where, as at Gloucester, 
he came, and saw, and conquered. His ministrations 
included daily prayer at Wapping Chapel, daily visits 
to the soldiers in the infirmary and barracks, and a 
weekly sermon at Ludgate Prison. Then we find him 
back at Oxford once more, with the old problem of 
temporal necessities revived. Whitefield, both from 
disposition and circumstances, was much more capable 
of being patronised than either of the Wesleys, who 
had all the pride and independence of gentlemen, and 
he accepted gratuities with alacrity. Moreover, Lady 
Betty Hastings provided exhibitions for his disciples. 
It would be neither kind nor reasonable to reverse the 
natural order of cause and effect, but the bounty of 
aristocratic ladies no doubt tended to strengthen the 
Holy Club, which had become, under Whitefield's 
management, a sound and flourishing institution. 

Then followed an interregnum, a long vacation, in 
the Hampshire parish of Dummer — an insignificant 
place where Whitefield longed for Oxford, or at least 
his Oxford friends, much as Ovid at Tomi longed for 
Rome. In his loneliness he solaced himself with an 
imaginary character drawn by the unconverted William 
Law, and was as unwearied in discharging the daily 
round of parochial duty as ever Wesley was. Of 
course, he was only curate-in-charge, but even if he 
had been a fully-fledged persona ecclesice, his mental 
conformation was such that he could not be perma- 
nently fitted into an ordinary sphere. In this respect he 
was like Wesley, who said that the world was his parish. 


When Mr. Kinchin, for whom he had been serving, 
became dean of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, White- 
field's anxieties on account of the prisoners ceased. 
Mr. Kinchin was a good man, an exemplary pastor, 
and he would look after them. In the same way, 
Harvey, of sepulchral fame, was willing to fill his 
place at Dummer. The world was all before him 
where to choose, and Whitefield chose Georgia. The 
choosing was not entirely his own. John Wesley had 
written to him after this fashion : " This harvest is 
great, but the labourers are few. What if thou art 
the man, Mr. Whitefield?" Whitefield thought he 
was, and he decided to embark — but not yet. This 
was partly the fault of the vessel in which he was to 
sail, but Whitefield perhaps was not sorry. The 
interval was passed neither idly nor in obscurity. 
The irreverent would say that the nimble months 
were spent by him "starring" in the provinces, or 
" bringing down the house " in London. These some- 
what vulgar phrases really describe, much better than 
more elegant terms, what happened. Through his 
zeal, and sympathy, and talent the novice won a 
succession of histrionic triumphs such as might have 
turned the head of one not wholly devoted to his sacred 
calling. It is truly astonishing to read of his successes, 
which induced his friends to lament the " pretty prefer- 
ment " he might have gained by staying at home. But 
the expedition to America appealed to the romantic 
element in his constitution almost as much as the 
crowded churches and weeping audiences in Bristol 
and in London. His popularity was enormous. He 
had to leave Bristol at midnight, or he would have 
endured the terrible scandal of being escorted from 


the city by a cavalcade. It was much the same in 
London, where Whitefield battled with the newspapers. 
A journalist of the time insisted on advertising him. 
He reported Whitefield's sermons, and informed the 
world where he was to preach next. The preacher 
protested against this enforced notoriety, but what 
was the use of that? It was not what the preacher 
wanted, but what the public wanted, that concerned 
the journalist. 

Although no formal complaint had been lodged with 
the bishop, Whitefield's departure for America was 
unquestionably well-timed. He found the conversa- 
tion of Dissenters " savoury," and that, though the hue 
and cry of enthusiasm had not yet been raised, was 
enough to disgust churchmen with him. But now a 
strange thing happened. Wesley's return almost 
coincided with Whitefield's going away, and the older 
Methodist landed just in time to communicate with 
his former disciple. The disillusioned missionary must 
have considered that the old relations still subsisted. 
At any rate he addressed Whitefield with that con- 
scious superiority displayed towards everybody not his 
oracle for the time being. Wesley had beguiled the 
voyage by casting lots — that is to say, he would open 
the Bible at random expecting to ascertain the will 
of God from the text that first offered. Before, he 
had suggested that Whitefield might be the man; 
now, he withdrew the suggestion, and, in the light of 
fancied revelation, commanded him to return to London. 
Whitefield, however, took leave to consult his own 
judgment. He remembered the story of the old pro- 
phet, the lion, and the ass that survived his dis- 
obedient owner ; and he resisted Wesley's attempt to 


seduce him from the path on which he had entered 
after so much deliberation. Thus they twain parted. 

What was the secret of Whitefield's success ? The 
most potent element in his success, as in that of all 
real prophets, was a heavenly afflatus. He had a 
message for his age, and he delivered that message 
with incomparable force and incomparable tenderness. 
Garrick is said to have envied Whitefield's manner of 
pronouncing "oh!" The pathos and persuasion he 
could throw into that single vocable took audiences 
by storm. Southey speaks of Whitefield's squint, and 
avers that it did him no harm. Perhaps it would be 
truer to cite this personal defect as a crowning proof 
of the mastery of mind over matter. In some respects 
the eye is as eloquent, if not more eloquent, than the 
tongue. The Romans are said to have conquered the 
enemy with their eyes before they slew them with 
their swords ; and every orator, in his crises of passion, 
spreads havoc with the concentrated power of his eyes. 
Whitefield had to forego this advantage ; nevertheless, 
he is said to have preached like a lion. On the whole, 
however, he may be considered to represent, far more 
than Wesley, the erotic side of Methodism. Wesley 
no doubt was capable of a sentimental style. He 
prated about "lovely congregations" and "lovely 
families," but, born a patriarch, he could not break 
into a true rhapsody. He was too logical, too incisive ; 
he liked fighting too much. Therefore sentiment did 
not sit well on him. 

With Whitefield it was just the reverse. He was 
open, innocent, ingenuous. He did not care what he 
said, provided that it affected his listeners, and this, 
apparently, it always did. As the result, he exposed 


himself to the rasping sarcasms of the cool-headed 
and cold-hearted Bishop Lavington, who had his own 
reasons for being annoyed with the Methodists, and 
whom the Methodists in their turn must have regarded 
as the impersonation of Satanic influence. 1 The 
episcopal strictures on Whitefield's erotics ran thus : 

" What heart can hold out against your persuasive 
eloquence, your flights and your allusions, melting, 
tender, amorous, soft, and sweet? God gives you a 
text, and directs to a method on the pulpit stairs ; the 
blessed Lamb reveals, and Sister Williams, who is near 
the Lord, opens her mouth to confirm it ; Jesus rides 
triumphantly from congregation to congregation in 
the chariot of the gospel ; the preacher sits in his dear 
Lord's arms, leaning on His bosom, and sucking the 
breasts of His consolation. . . . Infants, babes, and 
sucklings of grace are borne on the sides of Christ, 
dandled on His knees, and walk under the droppings of 
His blood, while from the lovely face and lily lips 
of the sweet Jesus distil precious promises and sweet- 
smelling myrrh. 

" In the meantime, among our soul-seeking brothers, 
our sweet societies of women, our love-feasts, our 
precious, poor, sweet little lambs, a gracious melting is 
visible ; to their absent friends on the top of Pisgah, 
to those sweetly sleeping on that bed perfumed by our 
Lord, a thousand kisses are sent. 

" When brother Whitefield preached, the smiles of a 
cherubim (sic) were in his countenance ; the hearts 
of the hearers were melted into tears; they had an 
over- weening fondness for him ; they ran and stopped 
him in the alleys, they hugged him in their arms, and 
1 They styled him, however, a "theological buffoon." 


said, ' Where thou goest, I will go ; where thou lodgest, 
I will lodge.' " 

However foolish and extravagant some of White- 
field's sayings may have been, it is hard (and, of course, 
needless) to find any excuse for Lavington. His 
parody of Methodism reads much like a parody of 
Christianity. To speak of "the sweet Jesus" as of 
some moppet among Methodists is plain blasphemy. 
If Lavington did not find Jesus sweet, what right or 
business had the man to be bishop of a Christian 
community ? He would have been more in place as a 
political hack, as a writer of lampoons. At the same 
time, it is impossible to deny that Methodism generated 
as by-products both cant and rant; and as it is the 
accident rather than the substance that wins the 
attention of the multitude,- many of the " small," as 
well as of the " great vulgar " — John Wesley used, and 
perhaps coined, the latter most happy and convenient 
locution — regarded Methodism as compounded of these 
two elements. Rant is one of the effects springing 
from enthusiasm, and the consideration of it may be 
deferred to a later chapter. The other topic may be 
touched on here. 

While rant is conceived of as turbid ebullition un- 
controlled by the reasoning faculty, cant has been 
thought to symbolise calculating hypocrisy. In 
common parlance it denotes, no longer "slang," but 
the insincere and indiscriminate use of biblical 
phraseology. This practice, like any other affectation, 
may be condemned on the score of taste, but hypocrisy 
— that is another matter. The early Methodists 
followed Wesley's example, and were, for the most 
part, men of one book. They not only read the Bible, 


they loved it, and what more natural, what more 
inevitable than that they should draw upon its stores 
of eloquence for terms and phrases idealising life ? 
Wesley from the first was much addicted to the habit 

perhaps it had come down as an heirloom from his 

Puritan ancestors — but he was sensible of its incon- 
gruity, and in theory disapproved of it. Writing to 
Mr. " John Smith," * he recognises the following lim- 
itations : 

" That we ought not to relate a purely natural case 
in the Scripture terms that express our Lord's 

" That low and common things are generally 
improper to be told in Scripture phrase." 

" That scriptural words that are obsolete, or which 
have changed their signification, are not to be used 
familiarly, as neither those technical terms which 
were peculiar to the controversies of those days." 

The kind of cant most characteristic of the Method- 
ists related to their grand doctrine of love, and the 
favourite comparison was that of a bridal. Mystics of 
every age, of every clime, have been fond of this 
figure, but it is open to question whether it ever 
was worked so persistently and so systematically as 
by the Methodists. Already we have seen how White- 
field, in the ardour of his remembrance, alludes to the 
day of his conversion as the day of his espousals. 
There is no harm in that. The marriage-morn is, 
or should be, a time of joy, though in many minds it is 
bound to give rise to solemn, and even sad, reflections. 

1 Mr. "John Smith" is believed to have been Dr. Thomas Lecker, 
Bishop of Oxford (afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury). He used 
this style in corresponding with Wesley, and was a sort of Nicodenms. 


Still the phrase will serve. It is doubtful, however, 
whether we ought to hail with quite Wesley's satis- 
faction the discussion of what are, after all, occult 
mysteries by precocious children. 

John B., he tells us, was a boy of ten. He was 
taken ill, and, being unable to sleep, conversed with 
his sister, whose age is not stated. " ' We shall soon 
be with angels and archangels in heaven. What 
signifies this wicked world ? Who would want to 
live here that might live with Christ ? ' The maid 
said, ' I wish I was married to Christ.' He said, 
' Being married to Christ is coming to Christ and 
keeping with Him. All may come to Him. I am 
happy, I am happy.' " 

Even more unsatisfactory than the bandying of 
such phrases between babes and sucklings, was the 
application of them to " lovely young women " — 
especially those cut down in their maiden prime. The 
number of Methodist " brides," in the ideal and spiritual 
sense, is quite alarming. Here again it is needful to 
distinguish between the lesson of watchfulness in our 
Lord's parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, and the 
iterated use of the simile in the case of particular 
persons. This is crambe repetita ; this is cant. There 
was no lack of it. 

" In the afternoon I buried the remains of Judith 
Perry, a lovely young woman snatched away at 
eighteen ; but she was ripe for the Bridegroom, and 
went forth to meet Him in the full triumph of faith." 

"This morning Abigail Pilsworth, aged fourteen, 
was born into the world of spirits. I talked with her 
the evening before, and found her ready for the 
Bridegroom. A few hours after, she quietly fell 


asleep. When we went into the room where her 
remains lay, we were surprised. A more beautiful 
corpse I never saw ; we all sung, 

'Ah ! lovely appearance of death, 
What sight upon earth is so fair ? 
Not all the gay pageants that breathe 
Can with a dead body compare.' 

All the company were in tears. And in all, except 
her mother, who sorrowed (but not as one without 
hope), they were tears of joy. death ! where is thy 
sting ? " 

The original source of the comparison is without 
doubt the parable of our Lord, but the expression 
" ripe for the Bridegroom," which is, properly speaking, 
applicable only to the bride, seems to point to an 
unusual interpretation of the parable. Was not 
Wesley's mind more or less influenced by a tale of 
Ephraim Syrus, of which he says, "I wonder it was 
never translated into English." It had been trans- 
lated, and well translated, into Italian, far back in the 
fourteenth century, by Domenico Cavalea, and it was 
in his version that the present writer first made its 
acquaintance. It may be, as Wesley says, that the 
tale had never been Englished, but as much cannot 
be stated now, since he himself at once proceeded to 
English it. This sto*ry, undoubtedly good of its kind, 
is a picturesque embodiment of all that is dear and 
significant to the mystic soul, but is not particularly 
adapted for transference to those pages. The heroine 
is the foster-child of a hermit, tender, yet strict. 
She is, however, led astray, and turns out a female 
counterpart of the Prodigal Son. Like the Prodigal 
Son she repents, and her repentance is accepted. 


Amidst transports of grief and shame, the erring 
orphan exclaims, " Where shall I go ? Into what pit 
shall I cast myself ? Where is the exhortation of that 
blessed man, ' keep thy soul spotless for thy immortal 
Bridegroom ' ? " 

The Methodist " brides " were not usually Magdalens. 
Most, if not all, were young ladies of irreproachable 
morals, and none more than the " Dairyman's 
Daughter." This saintly maiden, a native of the 
Isle of Wight and a contemporary of Wesley's old 
age, has been in a sense immortalised by the Rev. 
Legh Richmond, a clerical acquaintance and admirer, 
whose tract, bearing the above inscription, has been 
scattered broadcast over the globe, and after a hundred 
years is still selling. The writer, however, intimates 
that Elisabeth Wallbridge owed her conversion to a 
minister of the Church of England, whereas the real 
instrument was the Rev. J. Crabb, an officer of Wesley. 
Still more remarkable, he nowhere gives the slightest 
hint that " precious Betsy " was a Methodist. A 
lenient critic, Mr. Carvosso, remarks, " This might have 
been very proper, circumstanced as he was." Nothing 
of the sort. The first error may have been involun- 
tary, but Legh Richmond must have known perfectly 
well to what persuasion the " Dairyman's Daughter " 
belonged, and he should have had the honesty and 
candour to state the truth. One result of this neglect 
was an edifying exhibition of the national failing. 

" A clergyman from a distance, while visiting the 
grave of the Dairyman's Daughter, was very lavish 
in his eulogies of the piety of her whose ' sacred dust 
was sleeping in that humble grave.' He was observed 
to gather some flowers which grew on the turf 


that covered the grave, and carefully deposit them 
in his pocket. A gentleman who was present fell 
into conversation with him, and in the course of 
which (sic) asked him if he knew that Elisabeth Wall- 
bridge was converted amongst the Methodists, and 
that she lived and died a member of that Christian 
communion? The clergyman listened with blank 
astonishment, and as he turned away he was observed 
to drop the flowers on the ground, while the narrow- 
minded gent (sic) walked off in evident disgust. The 
charm was dissipated. 'Master, we saw one casting 
out devils in Thy name ; and we forbade him, because he 
followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, 
Forbid him not : for he that is not against us is for 
us'(Lukeix.49, 50)." 1 

Elisabeth Wallbridge was a domestic in a farm- 
house. She picked up scraps of knowledge at a dame's 
school, but never learnt to spell properly, and, as 
regards the learning of this world, must be written 
down as illiterate. She was, however, rich in faith, 
and, had she been born in an age when faith was 
respected, would perhaps have been canonised. It 
might be foolish to liken her to the great woman-saint 
of Siena, but the truth remains that Elisabeth wrote 
in a way that would not have shamed Catherina She 
is, for this reason, well fitted to stand forth as a repre- 
sentative Methodist "bride." Six months before her 
death, at the age of thirty, she began, but never finished, 
a personal narrative introduced by a prologue of true 
mystic warmth. " May the Lord pardon His unfaithful, 
unprofitable servant, and sanctify me throughout soul, 
spirit, and body, and plunge me in the Godhead's 

1 Methodism in the Isle of Wight, p. 226. 


deepest sea, that I may be lost in His immensity ! O 
glorious hope of perfect love ! May it ever fill and 
lift my ravished spirit up to things above ! There 
I shall for ever love. I thought I would just set down, 
as the Lord is pleased to give me time and strength, a 
few of His particular mercies and favours, as I can 
recollect. He has abounded in love and mercy to me. 
O that I had made Him all the returns that love could 
make by giving myself a sacrifice daily unto Him ! " 

It would be monstrous to describe such language, 
when it records genuine and generous feeling, as cant. 
There are thoughts that lie too deep for tears, but man, 
and especially woman, has an almost insatiable craving 
for expression. It is, in a great measure, by virtue of 
his superior faculty of expression, itself part of a larger 
faculty of invention, that man takes precedence of the 
brutes. Anyone at all versed in mystic literature finds 
himself quite at home in these ejaculations of Elisabeth 
Wallbridge, and he is ready to believe, from internal 
evidence, that they are spontaneous and sincere. Such 
language, however, easily degenerates into cant. It 
becomes cant the moment it ceases to define the actual 
emotions of the speaker, and the Methodists were 
not without grave temptations to overstate their 

To ordinary minds it seems impossible that human 
beings could long maintain themselves at so high a 
pitch of religious enthusiasm as that indicated in the 
above passage, or that they could soar to such a pitch 
at will. The Methodists, however, were suspected of 
attempting this feat. In his bitter criticism of Method- 
ism in the Edinburgh Review, Sydney Smith observes : 
" The Methodists are always desirous of making men 


more religious than it is possible, from the constitution 
of human nature, to make them. If they could suc- 
ceed as much as they wish to succeed, there would be 
at once an end to delving and spinning, and of every 
exertion of human industry. Men must eat, and drink, 
and work ; and if you wish to fix upon them high and 
elevated notions, as the ordinary furniture of their 
minds, you do these two things : you drive men of warm 
temperaments mad, and you introduce, in the rest of 
the world, a low and shocking familiarity with words 
and phrases which every real friend of religion would 
wish to keep sacred. The friends of the dear Re- 
deemer who are in the habit of visiting the Isle of 
Thanet (as in the extract we have quoted) — is it 
possible that this mixture of the most awful with the 
most familiar images, so common among Methodists 
now and with the enthusiasts in the time of Cromwell, 
must not in the end divest religion of all the deep and 
solemn impressions it is calculated to produce ? " 

This consideration — that familiarity breeds contempt 
— appears the most formidable objection to the class- 
meeting, one of the earliest and most characteristic 
products of Methodism. The class-meeting was the 
smallest unit of the Methodist Society. John Wesley's 
conversion occurred in a meeting of that sort, and it is 
therefore not to be wondered at that he laid stress on 
the institution. The object, however, was not so much 
to make as to retain converts, to assist them from justi- 
fication to sanctification, to help them in their march 
from the wicket-gate on to the bound of the waste, on 
to the City of God. 

Wesley did not understand what was meant by being 
" righteous overmuch." He had endeavoured, but with 


obvious difficulty, to render this point clear to himself 
in his Oxford days. In his later career he exalted and 
strove after the ideal of Christian perfection, and 
Christian perfection, he thought, would be best attained 
through the class-meeting, the members of which were 
to " provoke each other to love and good works." 
Sydney Smith's caution against wishing to make men 
more religious than their nature permits would have 
had no effect on Wesley. He would have scouted the 
limitation as an insult to both God and man. 

The other objection most commonly urged against 
the class-meeting — that it is virtually another name 
for the confessional — applies, if it can be said to apply 
at all, much more forcibly to the band-meeting, a 
smaller and purely voluntary function, which was very 
private, and in which the hardy associates were sup- 
posed to tell, not only their own, but each other's short- 
comings. The likening of the Methodist class-meeting 
to the confessional is, however, absurd The Method- 
ists did not hide crimes or even tendencies to crimes, as 
Wesley shows in what he calls a " tale of real woe." 
Wesley never accepted any responsibility for the aberra- 
tions of his followers, and thus he did not hesitate to 
narrate, with something of grim enjoyment, the indis- 
cretion of a certain dame, who mentioned in band that 
she had "found a temptation towards Dr. F." This 
interesting discovery was speedily communicated to 
her husband, who vented his indignation in a cudgel- 
ling " He is now thoroughly convinced of her inno- 
cence, but the water cannot be gathered up again ! He 
sticks there, ' I do thoroughly forgive you, but I can 
never love you again.' " 



Difficulties and Dangers— Harmless Bishops — Field-Preaching — 
At Kingswood — " Extraordinary Circumstances " — Causes — 
Posture of the Clergy — A Sermon and its Effects — Wesley's 
" Journalese "—Fury of Dissent — Brutal Conduct to Methodist 
Women — Methodist Valour — " No Popery ! " — Methodism and 
the Fashionable World— Humphry Clinker — The King of Bath. 

SOON after Wesley's return from Germany, he was 
joined by Whitefield, whose first term in the planta- 
tions was' even shorter than his own. Before his 
departure for America, many of Whitefield's friends 
had said to him, " What need of going abroad for this ? 
Have we not Indians enough at home ? If you have a 
mind to convert Indians, there are colliers enough at 

This counsel was of a piece with Charles Wesley's 
poetical rejoinder to his uncle Matthew, and consider- 
ing the spiritual destitution of many parts of England 
and the prevailing apathy manifested towards religion, 
the advice was not inopportune. Those who urged this 
course had probably little or no idea of the difficulties 
and dangers it involved, but whatever the difficulties and 
dangers may have been, the Wesleys and Whitefield, 
with truly apostolic courage, were ready to face them. 



Speaking of the difficulties, an acute writer has 
observed : " To spread o'er American wilds order and 
civilisation; to pour on the astonished mind of the 
savage cannibal gospel truths ; to bend untutored ignor- 
ance to faith or acquiescence, have signalised the martyr 
and canonised the saint. Yet I am of opinion that 
greater difficulties present themselves to the reclaimer 
of a European wallowing in filthy iniquity, and ob- 
stinately persisting in surly ignorance. The man who 
attempts to coerce and restrain habits so inveterate 
and passions so furious, and to teach animals scarcely 
susceptible of any pleasure but the most gross sensual 
gratification, has obstacles to surmount unknown to an 
instructor of the simple but unpolluted sons of nature." 
And the dangers were as great as the difficulties. 

Southey does himself less than justice by under- 
valuing these obstacles. " I pray God," Whitefield had 
said, " that the same spirit may be found in all that 
profess the Lord Jesus as was in the primitive saints, 
confessors, and martyrs. . . . This is my comfort, the 
doctrines I have taught are the doctrines of Scripture, 
the doctrines of our own and of other reformed Churches. 
If I suffer for preaching them, so be it ! Thou shalt 
answer for me, Lord, my God ! " Upon these and 
similar utterances Southey passes the inept criticism : 
" Such fears, or rather such hopes, were suited to the days 
of Queen Mary, Bishop Gardiner, and Bishop Bonner ; 
they are ridiculous or disgusting in the time of George 
the Second, Archbishop Potter, and Bishop Gibson." 

It will be shown in the present chapter that White- 
field's apprehensions were by no means ill-grounded. 
Persecution is not a royal or episcopal monopoly, nor 
are beheadal and burning the sole forms that persecu- 


tion can assume. Such brutal and inhuman methods 
were no doubt, as regards the clergy, out of date — more 
perhaps from indifference than from charity — and the 
worst that Whitefield anticipated from official dis- 
pleasure was imprisonment. No Government, however, 
can protect its subjects from the penalties — at any- 
rate, all the penalties — of unwelcome innovation. No 
Government, for instance, can hinder a sudden onset of 
the populace. The barbarous scenes witnessed even 
now, when education has become general, in connection 
with games of football, prove to demonstration that, 
until passions are eliminated from human breasts, there 
is always danger of eruption. The seeming inertia is 
the inertia of a volcano whose fires are latent, not ex- 
tinct. The mobbing of the Salvation Army at East- 
bourne, not many years ago, has been succeeded by free 
fights in churches between rival religious factions. 
These things are always possible. Attack prejudice, 
and a horde of devils will rise up to answer you. 
Whitefield knew, what Southey appears to have for- 
gotten, that King George and the bishops could not 
suppress the hostility which he and his colleagues, by 
their procedings, were bound to evoke. 1 

It is noticeable that Samuel Wesley, writing to his 
mother about a fortnight before his death, expressed 
himself as quite satisfied that no harm would befall his 
brother from the bishops. " As I told Jack, I am not 
afraid the Church should excommunicate him (dis- 

1 "We congratulate ourselves that the days of persecution are gone 
by ; but persecution is that which affixes penalties upon views held, in- 
stead of upon life led. Is persecution only fire and sword ? But suppose 
a man of sensitive feeling says, The sword is less sharp to me than the 
slander : fire is less intolerable than the refusal of sympathy " (F. W. 
Kobertson on The Tongue). 


cipline is at too low an ebb), but that he should ex- 
communicate the Church. He is pretty near it 

Ecclesiastical censures have lost their terrors ; thank 
fanaticism on the one hand, and atheism on the other. 
To talk of persecution from thence is mere insult. 
It is— 

'To call the bishop Grey -beard Goff, 
And make his power as mere a scott' 
As Dagon, when his hands were off.' " 

It is clear that neither John nor Charles Wesley had 
the least desire to fly in the face of authority, and it is 
equally clear that Dr. Edmund Gibson, the Bishop of 
London, had no intention of quarrelling with the 
Wesleys about singularity of doctrine. When the 
brothers waited on him to receive his admonitions, he 
framed a definition of " assurance " which was not 
their definition, but which he does not appear to have 
urged on them as a condition of orthodoxy. Other 
subjects discussed were the distinction between Anti- 
nomianism and Justification by Faith, which many 
held to be a distinction without a difference, and the 
question of baptizing Dissenters who had already sub- 
mitted to the rite at the hands of lay persons. These 
matters were amicably disposed of. The bishop ad- 
vised his visitors to read up ecclesiastical law ; and in 
return the Wesleys asked the bishop not to be easy in 
receiving accusations against them, and, in any case, 
to bring them acquainted with such accusations, which 
Dr. Gibson civilly agreed to do. 

Those were the days of Whig supremacy, and it is 
therefore not wholly surprising that, on one point, 
Dr. Gibson was more liberal than the Methodists, who 
were still High Churchmen enough to look with dis- 


dain on the ordinances of Dissenters. By a singular 
fatality it has happened several times that the Bishop 
of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury have 
resembled in comparative importance the Father 
Ambrose and Abbot Boniface of Scott's misnomered 
novel. Gibson was vastly more respectable than 
Potter. He was a great ecclesiastic. Sir Robert 
Walpole was reproached for his confidence in Gibson. 
" You suffer him to be a pope." " And," said the states- 
man, unperturbed, " a very good pope he is." 

The bishop made a vigorous effort to contend with 
Charles Wesley, especially on the question of lay 
baptism, and, having alluded to his power of inhibi- 
tion, cautioned him not to push things to extremes. 
The archbishop, on the other hand, seems not to have 
known his own mind. He hated innovation, and 
declared he would have none of it in his time, but he 
said of the Methodists, " These gentlemen are irregular, 
but they have done good, and I pray God to bless 
them." He counselled the Wesleys, if they would be 
extensively useful, to assail immorality and vice, leaving 
doubtful matters alone. John Wesley in his old age, 
recollecting this advice, called Potter a " great and good 
man " ; and, indeed, he seems to have had a share of that 
wise moderation which is understood to be a primary 
qualification for the 'chair of St. Augustine, but is 
none the less ruinous to personal greatness. If Wesley 
had been a Potter, he might have enjoyed honours and 
emoluments, but his name would never have been in- 
scribed in the bead-roll of illustrious churchmen. 

Nothing is more remarkable than the prominence 
of Charles Wesley at this period. The fame of the 
younger brother, except as a hymn-writer, has been 


overshadowed by that of the elder, but, in a literal and 
chronological sense, it is Charles, rather than John, 
Wesley, who is entitled to be called the Founder of 
Methodism. He, it will be recollected, not John, 
originated the Holy Club, the germ of the whole 
movement; and now that Methodism was about to 
make a stronger and wider appeal, it was Charles 
Wesley that dared the first step — the step that costs 
— so far as London was concerned. 1 What makes this 
circumstance more extraordinary is the fact that, 
whenever disputes arose — and the history of Method- 
ism, as of Christianity generally, is full of them — 
Charles Wesley went invariably Tory. He hated 
innovation as much as Archbishop Potter, but, in spite 
of himself, he was compelled to innovate. 

During John Wesley's absence controversy had arisen 
in the society at Fetter Lane about lay-preaching, and 
Charles had raised his voice against it. But field- 
preaching was almost as great a novelty, and the 
younger brother, in the teeth of his own prejudices 
and those of the archbishop (who seems to have 
muttered something about excommunication), began to 
preach in the fields. This, if he was to preach at all, 
was a practical necessity. The effect of their espous- 
ing and enforcing the doctrine of Justification by Faith 
had been to close the churches of London against 
the brothers. They were now the grand heresiarchs 

1 As will be seen, Whitefield anticipated both the brothers, to whom 
he was now oracle. This conduct, however, did not appear so strange 
in him. "The Wesleys," remarks the Scots Magazine for 1739, "are 
more guilty than Whitefield, because they are men of more learning, 
better judgment, and cooler heads." The Scots Magazine is right. 
The responsibility for Methodism as a system unquestionably rests on 
the Wesleys. 


of the age. Samuel Wesley expressed the general 
sentiment when he wrote, "They design separation. 
They are already forbidden all the pulpits in London ; 
and to preach in that diocese is actual schism. In all 
likelihood it will come to the same all over England, 
if the bishops have courage enough." 

Discipline and enthusiasm, philanthropy, and con- 
servatism waged an even battle in Charles Wesley's 
mind until Whitefield, who had more of decision in 
him, told him what to do. This was to preach in 
the fields the next Sunday. By that means "he 
would break down the bridge, render his retreat 
difficult or impossible, and be forced to fight his way 
forward." Charles Wesley broke down the bridge. 
" June 24th," he says, " I prayed and went forth in 
the name of Jesus Christ. I found near a thousand 
helpless sinners waiting for the word in Moorfields. 
I invited them in my Master's words, as well as name : 
' Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, 
and I will give you rest.' The Lord was with me, 
even me, the meanest of His messengers, according to 
His promise. At St. Paul's, the psalms, the lessons, 
etc., for the day put new life into me ; and so did the 
sacrament. My load was gone, and all my doubts and 

Regarding this irregularity, Samuel Wesley, the 
genius of order and of orthodoxy, announced himself 
as follows : — " For my own part, I had much rather 
have them picking straws within the walls, than 
preaching in the area of Moorfields." The gifted 
schoolmaster, perhaps, did not mean all that he said, 
but the exaggeration was not playful. Samuel would 
have stopped the field-preaching if he could. 


An innovation in London possesses at least an ex- 
ternal significance impossible in the provinces, and, 
from a national standpoint, Charles Wesley may be 
said to have borne the brunt of unpopularity. The 
original theatre of Methodist missionary operations 
was, however, Bristol and the neighbourhood. When 
Whitefield recommended Charles Wesley to preach in 
the fields, he spoke with the authority of one who had 
tried and had succeeded. 

A journal called the Weekly Advertiser supplies 
particulars of two episodes relating to the period of 
the clerical boycott. If this journal may be believed, 
Charles Wesley managed to occupy a pulpit, the use 
of which had been refused him by the incumbent. 
The trick was simple. Before the outraged parson 
had any conception of his purpose, he had audaciously 
mounted the stairs. It is hardly likely that a man of 
the stamp of Charles Wesley would condescend to such 
demagogic arts. Supposing the story to be true, he 
was probably the victim of a practical joke. There 
is, at all events, good reason to believe that a practical 
joke, or practical mistake, was perpetrated at St. 
Margaret's, Westminster, what time Whitefield was 
pushed by the crowd, and in particular by one Mr. 
Bennett, into the pulpit from which the rector and his 
henchmen vainly endeavoured to banish him. Although 
the blame for this conduct rested with his unwise ad- 
mirers, odium would inevitably fall on Whitefield as 
having forced himself into another man's pulpit. 
Accordingly, he departed for Bristol. 

The precaution was useless. The fame of his exploit 
— thanks to the Weekly Advertiser — had preceded him, 
and he found, on arriving, the churches closed to his 


ministrations. When, after a few days, two clergymen 
relented, the chancellor of the diocese intervened, and 
Whitefield was admonished that he might not preach 
without a licence. If he did, the penalty would be 
suspension, followed, in case of obduracy, by expulsion. 
Then at last Whitefield remembered the old advice of 
his friends, and preached to the colliers at Kingswood. 
His congregations were not select. They were not 
refined. But they were large, very large. We read of 
two thousand, of four thousand, of ten thousand, even 
of twenty thousand persons assembling to hear him in 
various places near Bristol. At Moorfields, later in the 
year, an army of sixty thousand is computed to have 
been present. Loose estimates, no doubt, but convey- 
ing the notion of vast audiences. 

Whitefield's mission at Bristol began early in February 
1739, and lasted six weeks. He then experienced a 
return of that spiritual ambition which made Dummer 
so irksome. As the experiment of field-preaching had 
answered so well at Kingswood, he thought it might 
answer still better in London. If numbers are any 
criterion, his success at Moorfields and at Kennington 
Common was certainly more colossal. Everywhere, it 
seems, he made collections for religious and charitable 
objects in Georgia, for which, in the month of August, 
he sailed. 

Although Whitefield in his letters addressed Wesley 
as " Honoured Sir," and was in age and station, as well 
as in the weightier matters of character and intellect, 
inferior alike to John and Charles, he appears for a 
time to have actually taken the lead. He was the 
first of Methodists to solve the ever-present and ever- 
difficult problem of reaching the masses, and as neither 


of the brothers was afflicted with false pride, they were 
content to accept Whitefield's guidance and to learn, 
if possible, his secret. When Whitefield, flushed with 
victory, wished to exchange Bristol for London, he sent 
an urgent summons to John Wesley, whom he pro- 
posed to name his successor. There was some demur. 
Charles Wesley, as always, objected. Eventually, how- 
ever, John Wesley went, and, having heard Whitefield 
preach at the Bowling Green, Rose Green, and Hannam 
Mount, took up his cross. His journal shows plainly 
what were his feelings at the time. 

"Saturday {March 31). — In the evening I reached 
Bristol and met Mr. Whitefield there. I could scarce 
reconcile myself at first to the strange way of preach- 
ing in the fields, of which he set me an example on 
Sunday ; having been all my life (till very lately) so 
tenacious of every point relating to decency and order 
that I should have thought the saving of souls almost 
a sin, if it had not been done in a church. 

"April 1. — In the evening (Mr. Whitefield being 
gone) I began expounding our Lord's Sermon on the 
Mount (one pretty remarkable precedent of field- 
preaching, though I suppose there were churches at 
that time also) to a little society which was accustomed 
to meet once or twice a week in Nicholas Street. 

" Monday, 2. — At four in the afternoon, I submitted 
to be more vile, and proclaimed in the highways the 
glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little emi- 
nence in a ground adjoining the city, to about three 
thousand people. The scripture on which I spoke was 
this (is it possible that anyone should be ignorant that 
it is fulfilled in every true minister of Christ ?) : ' The 
Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath 


anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He 
hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted ; to preach de- 
liverance to the captives, and recovery of sight to the 
blind : to set at liberty them that are bruised, to pro- 
claim the acceptable year of the Lord.' " 

With the exception of a few brief intervals, Wesley 
laboured at Bristol from April to December, and, on 
the whole, with remarkable success. The colliers of 
Kingswood were fair game for excommunicated zeal. 
They were in the parish of St. Philip's, but the church 
was three miles distant, and any desire the collier 
might have to attend divine service was at once 
checked by the cool indifference of his pastors and 
masters. The maxim that Mahomet must go to the 
mountain is now well understood and obeyed in respon- 
sible quarters, but in those days, owing to the more 
severely aristocratic ordering of English society, such 
condescension was hardly dreamed of. Dr. Johnson 
said that " those who lived to please, must please 
to live." The beneficed clergy, and especially the 
pluralists, were under no such disagreeable con- 

The parochial system has its merits — it is regarded 
as the glory of the English Church — but neither the 
parochial nor any other system ought to win excessive 
reverence. Circumstances vary, and it is usually 
considered a mark of wisdom to adapt yourself to 
them. The ossified Church of England had lost this 
faculty. Both at Kingswood and elsewhere, the 
parochial system and the population no longer squared, 
no longer coincided. The times were distinctly out of 
joint. In order to remind the colliers of their fealty 
to St. Philip's, the incumbents of other churches 


repelled colliers presenting themselves at Holy Com- 
munion, just as if colliers were children or dumb, 
driven beasts, capable of being coerced into observance 
of ecclesiastic rules. It is possible to treat a highly- 
disciplined man, a man sensitive on the point of 
etiquette, as a puppet or a pawn, but the rough toiler 
sets a high value on his moments of liberty, and has a 
taste for patronising churches. 

" Where are you going this evening, Thomas ?" 

" I am going to St. John's. You see I must divide 
my favours." 

Thomas is not such a nonentity as you might have 
thought. When Whiten 1 eld and Wesley called on him and 
invited his good opinion, he was disposed to be very 
polite, and liberally responded to their friendly overtures. 

John Wesley, as has been frequently pointed out, 
was of a different mental constitution from Whitefield, 
whose head had not gained an ascendency over his 
heart, and who was thus preserved from many embarrass- 
ments. The same might be said, in a more qualified 
sense, of Charles Wesley, though he had not inherited 
the warmly sympathetic nature of the son of the inn. 
John Wesley's inhumanity — to use a strong, but 
justifiable expression 1 — bore fruit of a painful and 
singular kind. When Whitefield preached, when 
Charles Wesley preached, nothing abnormal occurred. 
People may have wept — many did weep — but those 
were gracious drops. It has always been the privilege 
of orators, the function of actors, to stir the emotions ; 
and to touch the heart with the feeling of mortal 
sorrow was recognised by Aristotle as a refining and 

1 His contemporaries criticised his " stoical insensibility." The moral 
surgeon, however, must not flinch. 


elevating influence, as the moral justification of the 
stage. Physical contortions and convulsions, hysteria, 
fits are of another complexion, benefiting neither 
body nor soul. Yet these were the manifestations 
with which John Wesley was brought face to face, 
as the direct or indirect result of his own unselfish 

So many baseless slanders were circulated about the 
Methodists that Wesley's own statements regarding 
those strange, those melancholy, but yet not wholly 
unwelcome concomitants of his preaching possess a 
quite exceptional value. " May 1. — At Baldwin Street 
my voice could scarce be heard amidst the groanings of 
some, and the cries of others calling aloud to Him that 
is mighty to save ; and ten persons then began to say 
in faith, ' My Lord and my God ! ' A Quaker, who 
stood by, was very angry, and was biting his lips, and 
knitting his brows, when he dropped down as thunder- 
struck. The agony he was in was even terrible to behold. 
We prayed for him, and he soon lifted up his head 
with joy, and joined us in thanksgiving. A bystander, 
John Hay don, a man of regular life and conversation, 
one that zealously attended the public prayers and 
sacrament, and was zealous for the Church and against 
Dissenters, laboured to convince the people that all this 
was a delusion of the devil ; but next day, on reading 
a sermon on 'Salvation by Faith,' he suddenly 
changed colour, fell off his chair, and began screaming, 
and beating himself against the ground. The neigh- 
bours were alarmed, and flocked together. When I 
came in, I found him on the floor, the room being full, 
and two or three holding him as well. He immediately 
fixed his eyes on me, and said, ' Ay, this is he I said 


deceived the people. But God has overtaken me. I 
said it was a delusion of the devil, but this is no 
delusion.' Then he roared aloud, 'O thou devil! 
thou cursed devil ! yea, thou legion of devils ! thou 
canst not stay in me. Christ will cast thee out. I 
know His work is begun. Tear me in pieces, if thou 
wilt ; but thou canst not hurt me.' He then beat him- 
self against the ground; his breast heaving, as if in 
the pangs of death, and great drops of sweat trickling 
down his face. We all betook ourselves to prayer. 
His pangs ceased, and both his body and soul were set 
at liberty. With a clear, strong voice he cried, ' This is 
the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. 
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, from this time forth 
for evermore ! ' I called again an hour after. We 
found his body weak as an infant, and his voice lost ; 
but his soul was in peace, full of love, and rejoicing in 
the hope of the glory of God." 

" May 21. — In the evening, at Nicholas Street, I was 
interrupted, almost as soon as I had begun to speak, 
by the cries of one who strongly groaned for pardon 
and peace. Others dropped down as dead. Thomas 
Maxfield began to roar out and beat himself against 
the ground, so that six men could scarcely hold him. 
Except John Haydon, I never saw one so torn of the 
Evil One. Many others began to cry out to the 
Saviour of all, insomuch that all the house, and indeed 
all the street, for some space was in an uproar. But 
we continued in prayer, and the greater part found 
rest to their souls." 

"June 15.— Whilst (at Wapping) I was earnestly 
inviting sinners to ' enter into the holiest ' by this ' new 
and living way,' many of those that heard began to 


call upon God with strong cries and tears. Some sunk 
down, and there remained no strength in them ; others 
exceedingly trembled and quaked ; some were torn 
with a kind of convulsive motion in every part of their 
bodies, and that so violently that often four or five 
persons could not hold one of them. I have seen many 
hysterical and many epileptic fits ; but none of them 
were like these, in many respects. One woman was 
greatly offended, being sure that they might help it if 
they would ; but she also dropped down in as violent 
an agony as the rest." 

This is the evidence, then. It would be easy to 
multiply illustrations drawn from the same source, 
as has been done, with marvellous appetite for the 
abnormal, by Luke Tyerman. The present writer has 
found it sufficiently irksome to transcribe even the 
passages cited, without adding more. The question 
now is, What was the right attitude to assume towards 
these and kindred phenomena ? Charles Wesley took 
up the position that, while there might have been 
genuine cases of hysteria, in other cases the hysteria 
was pure imposture. To a preacher these clamours 
were highly inconvenient. They drowned his voice. 
At Newcastle, therefore, Charles Wesley gave notice 
that anyone thus offending should be carried to the 
furthest corner of the' room. He makes the significant 
remark, "My porters had no employment the whole 

The "outward affections" thus promptly checked 
happened four years after the " first preaching," which, 
Charles Wesley thought, was the halcyon period of 
genuine hysteria. And, indeed, the reality of these 
early cases is beyond doubt. Hypocrisy, of course, is 


never to be encouraged; was it proper to encourage 
the original sickness? At first Whitefield conceived 
that it was not; and, on June 25, 1739, he addressed a 
letter of remonstrance to Wesley. 

" Honoured Sir, — I cannot think it right in you to 
give so much encouragement to those convulsions 
which people have been thrown into, under your 
ministry. Was I to do so, how many would cry 
out every night? I think it is tempting God to 
require such signs. That there is something of God in 
it, I doubt not. But the devil, I believe, interposes. I 
think it will encourage the French prophets, take 
people from the written word, and make them depend 
on visions, convulsions, etc., more than on the promises 
and precepts of the gospel." 

Twelve days later, Whitefield arrived on the scene 
of action, when Wesley appears to have " talked him 
over." Moreover, the identical effects attended his 
own application of Scripture — an argument which 
necessarily silenced any remaining objections. That 
Whitefield's opposition had collapsed is very evident 
from the satisfied and triumphant tone of Wesley's 
conclusion : " From this time, I trust, we shall all 
suffer God to carry on His own work in the way that 
pleaseth Him." 

The truth is that the Methodist lawgiver regarded the 
convulsions as " signs and wonders " sent or permitted 
on account of the hardness of men's hearts ; but he is 
forced to confess that many, although they saw, would 
not believe. As to the immediate causes, Wesley, 
never at a loss for " principles," offers a choice of 
alternatives. The incidents may be explained as 
resulting from a " strong, lively, and sudden apprehen- 


sion of the heinousness of sin, the wrath of God, and 
the bitter pains of eternal death." Or they may be 
explained by "the agency of those spirits who still 
excel in strength, and, as far as they have power from 
God, will not fail to torment whom they cannot 
destroy; to tear those that are coming to Christ. 
It is also remarkable that there is plain Scripture 
precedent of every symptom that has lately appeared " 
— particularly, it may be supposed, that of the boy 
who had a dumb spirit. Hence the italics. 

These theories, though advanced separately and 
independently, are not intended to be mutually exclu- 
sive. The theory of demoniacal possession, which 
Wesley would have abandoned with extreme reluct- 
ance, is superadded to the natural causes, though, for 
others, faith in it is optional. The natural causes 
alone sufficed. Why then did Wesley entertain so 
strongly the notion of Satanic torture ? The reason is 
obvious. Assuming that the unhappy persons were 
torn by devils, Wesley was able to accomplish what 
the disciples of Christ at first could not. By the power 
of God he cast out devils. The bestowal of super- 
natural grace stamped with divine approval the 
opening of his larger ministry. 

Since even Wesley did not regard natural causes as 
opposed to spiritual agencies, it will be expedient 
perhaps to confine matters within the limits of human 
reason and experience. Amongst the natural causes 
Wesley's personality stands out prominent and dis- 
tinct. No doubt the "extraordinary circumstances" 
were as much a subject of surprise to him as they 
were to most people. He did not foresee what was to 
occur, but the seeds, many of them, were in himself. 


His intense conviction, his absolute devotion, his 
quiet but authoritative manner, his learning and 
ability compelled attention in a way that Whitefield's 
addresses hardly ever did. It could not be said of 
Wesley, as might perhaps have been said, in a com- 
parative sense, of Whitefield : " And lo, thou art unto 
them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant 
voice, and can play well on an instrument, for they 
hear thy words, but they do them not. And when 
this cometh to pass (lo, it will come) then shall they 
know that a prophet hath been among them." 
Wesley's audiences needed not to wait for an era of 
general desolation, though national calamity was on 
the wing. They recognised him as a prophet, and 
behaved accordingly. The man and the message 
were suited to each other. They exercised a terrible 

Thirty years later, writing to Mr. Joseph Benson, 
Wesley remarks on the inadequacy of pure reason as 
an engine or implement in human affairs. "'Child,' 
said my father to me, when I was young, ' you think 
to carry everything by dint of argument. But you 
will find by and by how very little is ever done in 
the world by clear reason.' Very little indeed ! It is 
true of almost all men, except so far as we are taught 
of God— 

'Against experience we believe, 

We argue against demonstration ; 
Pleased while our reason we deceive, 

And set our judgment by our passion.' 

Passion and prejudice govern the world ; only under 
the name of reason. It is our part, by religion and 
reason conjoined, to counteract them all we can." 


By distinguishing reason from religion, Wesley- 
shows that he does not consider them identical — it is 
difficult to see how he could — or, at any rate, coexten- 
sive. Religion includes elements — e.g. feeling and 
imagination — which may become, in a high degree, 
irrational. To these elements, though not to these 
alone, Wesley, in common with most popular preachers, 
appealed. But he did not, like many popular preachers, 
appeal to them separately. He did not, that is to say, 
make people fear, and fancy, and weep, and wonder, 
and laugh by turns. Less perhaps from choice than 
from innate necessity, he appealed to a conglomerate, 
an amalgam of reason, imagination, and feeling, to the 
capacity for what is called " sensation." Now " sensa- 
tion," while it admits of preparation, is, like the 
Methodist type of conversion, instantaneous, the work 
of a moment. It was this strain on the faculties, 
operating through the nervous system, that disturbed 
the equilibrium of people, that produced those painful 
scenes and exhibitions of frenzy. 

But the explanation is not yet complete. Where 
the subjects are, not merely individuals, but crowds, 
the effects are proportionately severe. Emotion is 
contagious ; precedent — especially when visible — con- 
straining. An inscrutable and sometimes very terrible 
force, fashion does riot argue and will not be argued 
with. A crowd is never absolutely sane. It sounds 
a strange paradox, but on reflection it will be seen 
that Methodism, arch-enemy of balls and masques, of 
foppery and finery, was yet aided by fashion. Fashion 
deals not in externals only. The essence of fashion is 
the doing something that you might not otherwise do, 
because others do it. The Quaker, in Wesley's Journal, 


succumbed to intensified fashion, to the swift, over- 
mastering access of transfused religious emotion. 

It was among the simple and poor that Wesley won 
his Oudenardes and Ramillies. He attacked no par- 
ticular vocations, no particular localities. The miners 
of Kingswood, the farm-hands and shepherds of remote 
villages, the shopkeepers of petty country towns, the 
weavers of congested manufacturing districts, the 
Duke of Cumberland's foot and horse — each of these 
classes was attacked, and each of these classes, in 
the persons of its representatives, yielded to the 
Captain of souls, and followed His banner, a truly 
great army. The task was no pastime, but it was 
achieved. How? Commonly, by preaching Hell. 
The object was to make men feel, and this object 
was gained by calling down fire from heaven, by the 
introduction into a discourse of something electric. 
Wesley knew the value of a shock, and he shocked 
his audiences rudely, deliberately, and incessantly. 
It was his chosen and not ineffectual method for the 
awakening of pagan England. If fits were in some 
cases the result, that was not his concern. He noted 
the fact as a fact of natural history. It did not aftect 
his purpose in the least. He had moral courage. He 
suffered God to carry on His work in His own way. 

But if Wesley had moral courage, he had also 
brilliant physical courage. The incidents of his early 
ministry were not calculated to smooth his future path, 
nor can the doctrines of sin and eternal punishment 
be described as popular. They might, and did, exert 
an antipathetic attraction, but attraction of this kind 
is full of peril. That way lies martyrdom. When 
Wesley appeared in a town, his endeavours were 


resented in advance. It was much the same as in 
apostolic times. Those who had turned the world 
upside down had come thither. The Methodist leaders 
had forfeited whatever protection they might have 
enjoyed from their priesthood in the Church. She 
disowned them. 

"It pleased God," says Wesley, "by two or three 
ministers of the Church of England to call many 
sinners to repentance, who, in several parts, were 
undeniably turned from a course of sin to a course 
of holiness. 

" The ministers of the places where this was done 
ought to have received those ministers with open 
arms ; and to have taken those persons who had just 
begun to serve God into their particular care ; watch- 
ing over them in tender love lest they should fall back 
into the snare of the devil. 

" Instead of this, the greater part spoke of those 
ministers, as if the devil, not God, had sent them. 
Some repelled them from the Lord's Table ; others 
stirred up the people against them, representing them, 
even in their public discourses, as fellows not fit to 
live; papists, heretics, traitors; conspirators against 
their king and country. 

" And how did they watch over the sinners lately 
reformed? Even as a leopard watcheth over his 
prey. They drove some of them from the Lord's 
Table, to which till now they had no desire to approach. 
They preached all manner of evil concerning them, 
openly cursing them in the name of the Lord. They 
turned many out of their work, persuaded others 
to do so too, and harassed them in all manner of 


" The event was that some were wearied out, and so 
turned back to the vomit again : and then these good 
pastors gloried over them, and endeavoured to shake 
others by their example." 

These are strong words, but Wesley, looking at the 
matter from the standpoint of " the cause," and speak- 
ing from personal knowledge, did not exaggerate. 
Even if harsher language had been used, it might have 
been pardoned. At Wednesbury the incumbent pro- 
nounced a discourse of which Wesley says, that he 
never " heard so wicked a sermon, and delivered with 
such bitterness of voice and manner." The results 
of this address, spoken in 1743, were deplorable. 
Men, and women, and children were stoned, and 
beaten, and pelted with mud. Homes were entered, 
and licensed burglars, achieving the ends of injustice, 
carried away the furniture. Wesley was at Bristol 
when the news of this outbreak arrived, and he at 
once hastened to comfort and encourage his distressed 
flock. It soon appeared that the shepherd was to be 
smitten, as well as the sheep. 

" I was writing at Francis Ward's in the afternoon, 
when the cry arose that the mob had beset the house. 
We prayed that God would disperse them ; and so it 
was. One went this way and another that, so that 
in half an hour not a man was left. I told our 
brethren ' Now is the time to go ' ; but they pressed 
me exceedingly to stay. So, that I might not offend 
them, I sat down, though I foresaw what would follow. 
Before five, the mob surrounded the house again, and 
in greater numbers than ever. The cry of one and all 
was, ' Bring out the minister ! We will have the 
minister ! ' I desired one to take the captain by the 


hand and bring him into the house. After a few 
sentences interchanged between us, the lion was become 
a lamb. 

" I desired him to go and bring one or two of the 
most angry of his companions. He brought in two, 
who were ready to swallow the ground with rage ; 
but in two minutes they were as calm as he. I then 
bade them make way, that I might go out among 
the people. As soon as I was in the midst of them, I 
called for a chair, and asked, ' What do any of you want 
with me ? ' Some said, ' We want you to go with us to 
the justice.' I replied, ' That I will, with all my heart.' 
I then spoke a few words, which God applied, so that 
they cried out with might and main, ' The gentleman 
is an honest gentleman, and we will spill our blood in 
his defence.' I asked, ' Shall we go to the justice to-night 
or in the morning ? ' Most of them cried, ' To-night, 
to-night ! ' on which I went before, and two or three 
hundred followed, the rest returning whence they came. 

" The night came on before we had walked a mile, 
together with heavy rain. However, on we went to 
Bentley Hall, two miles from Wednesbury. One or 
two ran before to tell Mr. Lane that they had brought 
Mr. Wesley before his worship. Mr. Lane replied, 
' What have I to do with Mr. Wesley ? Go and carry 
him back again.' By this time the main body came 
up, and began knocking at the door. A servant told 
them Mr. Lane was in bed. His son followed, and 
asked what was the matter. One replied, ' Why, an't 
please you, they sing psalms all day ; nay, and make 
folks rise at five in the morning ; and what would your 
worship have us to do ? ' ' To go home,' said Mr. Lane, 
' and be quiet.' 


" Here they were at a full stop, till one advised to 
go to Justice Persehouse, at Walsall. All agreed to 
this, so we hastened on, and about seven came to his 
house. But Mr. Persehouse also sent word that he 
was in bed. Now they were at a stand again, but at 
last they all thought it the wisest course to make the 
best of their way home. About fifty of them under- 
took to convoy me ; but we had not gone a hundred 
yards, when the mob of Walsall came pouring in like 
a flood, and bore down all before them. The Darlaston 
mob made what defence they could; but they were 
weary, as well as outnumbered, so that in a short time, 
many being knocked down, the rest went away and 
left me in their hands. 

"To attempt speaking was vain, for the noise on 
every side was like the roaring of the sea. So they 
dragged me along till we came to the town, where 
seeing the door of a large house open, I attempted to 
go in, but a man, catching me by the hair, pulled me 
back into the middle of the mob. They made no more 
stop till they had carried me through the main street, 
from one end of the town to the other. I continued 
speaking all the time to those within hearing, feeling 
no pain or weariness. At the west end of the town, 
seeing a door half -open, I made towards it, and would 
have gone in, but a gentleman in the shop would not 
suffer me, saying they would pull the house down to 
the ground. However, I stood at the door, and asked, 
' Are you willing to hear me speak ? ' Many cried out, 
' No, no ! Knock his brains out ! Down with him ! 
Kill him at once ! ' Others said, ' Nay, but we will 
hear him first.' I began asking, ' What evil have I 
done ? Which of all have I wronged in word or deed ? ' 


and continued speaking for above a quarter of an 
hour, till my voice suddenly failed. Then the floods 
began to lift up their voice again ; many crying out, 
' Bring him away ! bring him away ! ' 

"In the meantime my strength and my voice 
returned, and I broke out aloud into prayer. And 
now the man who just before headed the mob turned 
and said, ' Sir, I will spend my life for you ; follow me, 
and not one soul here shall touch a hair of your head.' 
Two or three of his fellows confirmed his words, and 
got close to me immediately. At the same time the 
gentleman in the shop cried out, ' For shame, for 
shame ! Let him go ! ' An honest butcher, who was 
a little further off, said it was a shame they should do 
thus ; and pulled back four or five, one after another, 
who were running on the most fiercely. The people 
then, as if it had been by common consent, fell back to 
the right and left, while those three or four men took 
me between them, and carried me through them all. 
But on the bridge the mob rallied again. We therefore 
went on one side over the mill-dam, and thence through 
the meadows till, a little before ten, God brought me 
safe to Wednesbury, having lost only one flap of 
my waistcoat, and a little skin from one of my 

" From the beginning to the end, I found the same 
presence of mind as if I had been sitting in my own 
study. But I took no thought for one moment before 
another. Only once it came into my mind that if 
they should throw me into the river, it would spoil 
the papers that were in my pocket. For myself, I did 
not doubt but I should swim across, having but a thin 
coat and a light pair of boots." 


It may be well to observe that this long passage has 
not been cited for the sake of the style. Wesley, 
though he knew what pertained to elegance and pro- 
priety, did not aim at literary distinction, and would 
probably have been the first to disclaim the post- 
prandial compliment bestowed on his Journal by an 
eminent statesman, who described it as an unstudied 
masterpiece of English literature. This is the lan- 
guage of eulogy, not of criticism. The Journal is a 
wonderful monument of a wonderful man, but " litera- 
ture " it is not. It is a very plain, honest, unpretend- 
ing record. More than that, there are in the above 
narrative several expressions that offend against taste. 
Wesley could not plead ignorance of the requirements 
of taste. We have had his admission that " low and 
common things are generally improper to be told in 
Scripture phrase," yet we find him saying, with refer- 
ence to the noisy mob, " the floods lift up their voice." 
This may be a venial offence in a zealous clergyman, 
but it is not very venial in a mere writer, to whom 
some effort at style is an obligation. Wesley, however, 
would as lief have worn a fine coat — he spoke words 
to this effect — as cultivate a fine style. The phrase 
" What evil have I done ? " is even more exceptionable 
as suggesting a parallel between himself and his Divine 
Master. All these lapses arose out of Wesley's position 
as a " homo unius libri." He was an omnivorous reader, 
and solaced his often long and lonely journeys with 
almost any work that came to hand, but the study of 
the Bible — and study is not precisely the same as 
reading — infected his writings with a sort of pata- 
vinity, a cast of dialect. Thus, one of the greatest 
of literary charms — freshness, individual expression — 


is absent from his writings ; and the accusation of cant 
helped forward the scandal of the Cross. 

If the passage was not cited as a specimen of style, 
neither was it cited by reason of the rare interest 
of the matter. No important consequences ensued. 
Wesley was not the worse for his adventure, and this 
circumstance lends a touch of melodrama to the whole 
relation. As the incident occurred long ago, and we 
were not there, cynical unreason recks of mock heroics. 
After all, the mob was not unamiable. Nobody was 
killed. No, but Wesley was in evident peril, and this 
was one of a series of adventures studding the crusade 
of Methodism, from which Wesley escaped, humanly 
speaking, through his own coolness, and courage, and 
natural command over his fellows. By his cheerful- 
ness and serenity, and by his resolute bearing, he won 
the respect of a class not by any means too gentle. 

Although he allows that he was not unduly per- 
turbed, Wesley regarded his escape as miraculous. 
This was eminently characteristic of the man. Nothing 
happened to Wesley in an ordinary or commonplace 
way. He had an absolute craze for the strange, the 
uncanny, the unaccountable. Thus he gives in a 
parenthesis several particulars designed to correct 
suggestions of mock heroics, and to invest an obscure 
affair with the halo of invisible ministries. Many 
attempted to throw him down on a slippery path, but 
he never stumbled. Many sought to lay hold of his 
collar and clothes, but failed, Wesley, however, losing 
the flap of his waistcoat. A "lusty man" aimed 
repeated blows with a large oaken stick at the back 
of Wesley's head, but each blow, it was impossible to 
say why, missed its mark. Another ruffian rushed 


through the crowd with his arm raised aloft to strike, 
but a sudden impulse seized him, and letting his arm 
fall, he observed, "What soft hair he has!" at the 
same time stroking Wesley's head. A further point 
is that Wesley, without knowing it, paused outside the 
house of the mayor. The mob, however, was better 
informed, and deferred somewhat to law and order as 
represented by the gentleman in the shop. Wesley 
deems it worthy of particular notice that the first to 
relent were the heroes of the town, the invariable 
captains of the rabble. One of them had been a prize- 
fighter at the bear-gardens. The rude people respected 
Wesley's delicacy by not wounding his ears with foul 
and indecent nicknames. They brought no specific 
charge against him. But they thirsted for his blood 
all the same. Tacitus says of the Christian martyrs 
under Nero that, possessed with an abominable super- 
stition, they were condemned not so much for their 
supposed crime of firing the city as from the hatred of 
all mankind. This was precisely the case of the early 
Methodists. At Leeds the mob in high excitement was 
ready to knock out their brains for joy that the Duke 
of Tuscany was emperor. What next ? 

Although there is abundant evidence that the clergy 
as a body, when they did not oppose, did not support 
Wesley, by some of his order he was neither perse- 
cuted nor ignored. The Rev. Vincent Perronet, vicar 
of Shoreham, Kent, in 1745, invited him to preach in 
his church, but by this time the very name of Wesley 
was enough, and the favour of a country parson, how- 
ever pious and venerable, could not save him from the 
execrations of the vulgar. "As soon as I began to 
preach, the wild beasts began roaring, stamping, bias- 


pheming, ringing the bell, and turning the church into 
a bear-garden. I spoke on for half an hour, though 
only the nearest could hear. The rioters followed us 
to Mr. Perronet's house, raging, threatening, and throw- 
ing stones. Charles Perronet hung over me to inter- 
cept the blows. They continued their uproar after we 
got into the house." 

Thus the clergy were not all hostile. Neither 
were Wesley's brother-churchmen alone in rejecting 
him. The Dissenters displayed much acrimony. Dr. 
Doddridge was sympathetic, but, as has been before 
insisted on, the attitude of dignitaries and great men 
does not always determine the attitude of small men. 
Persons in high place, and men conspicuous for their 
talents, usually have the sense to avoid measures likely 
to damage their reputation. The light that beats on 
their actions inspires them with caution, and prevents 
them from yielding too much to passion or prejudice. 
In that respect Lavington stands forth as a rare and 
melancholy exception. This consideration does not 
move to the same degree people in humble stations, 
and living in remote places, out of the public ken. 
Experience has taught them what will gain popularity 
within their immediate circle, and what will be toler- 
ated, and even applauded, within the larger circle 
bounding their sphere of interest. It is wonderful 
what mortals will dare when released from effective 
criticism. Charles Wesley found this to be true of 
several leading inhabitants of Devizes. " (The rioters) 
were already wrought up to the proper pitch by the 
curate and the gentlemen of the town, particularly 
Mr. Sutton and Mr. Willey, Dissenters, the two leading 
men. Mr. Sutton frequently came out to the mob to 


keep up their spirits. He sent word to Mrs. Phillips, 
that if she did not turn that fellow out to the mob, he 
would send them to drag him out. Mr. Willey passed 
by again and again, assuring the rioters that he would 
stand by them, do what they would." 

The direst results of persecution did not extend to 
the Wesleys. Often, as soldiers of Christ, they looked 
death in the face with level eyes and tranquil hearts, 
but neither of the par nobile fratrum was called on 
to lay down his life for God and Methodism. Pro- 
vidence decreed that they should not die until their 
work had been accomplished, and their high character, 
polished manners, respectable station, and beautiful 
assurance operated as a charm on the savage populace. 
At Kingswood the Methodist converts were assaulted, 
but Charles Wesley was immune. At Plymouth Dock 
John Wesley walked boldly into the thick of the 
excitement and took the captain of the mob by the 
hand. This proof of confidence was irresistible. " Sir," 
said the fellow, " I will see you safe home. No man 
shall touch you. Gentlemen, give back. I will knock 
down the first man that touches him." 

When the personal glamour was withdrawn, when 
Methodism was represented by familiar acquaintance, 
by poor, simple neighbours, distinguished by no fine 
scholarship or courtly address, matters took another 
complexion. There was a notion in Wesley's time, as 
there was in Southey's, that the days of martyrdom 
were past. Was not the Protestant ascendency secure ? 
Was it not the turn of latitudinarian or Broad Church 
politics? What cause to fear the rack, the thumb- 
screw, or the stake, whilst the Georges bore sway ? 
Alas ! in his Farther Appeal Wesley could cite sickening 


instances of the way Methodist women were treated 
by brave churchmen who never went to church. 

" On June 20, 1743, about four in the afternoon 
they came to the house of Widow Turner, of West 
Bromwich. They threw in bricks and stones so fast 
that she was forced to open the door and run out 
among them. One of her daughters cried out, 'My 
mother will be killed ! ' On which they fell to throw- 
ing stones at her. . . . The widow asked, ' How can 
you come and abuse us thus ? ' On which one came 
with a large club, and swore if she spoke another word 
he would knock her on the head and bury her in the ditch. 

" On the 19th of June, James Yeoman, of Walsall, 
saw Mary Bird in her father's house at Wednesbury, 
and swore, ' By G — , you are there now, but we will 
kill you to-morrow.' Accordingly, he came with a 
mob the next day ; and after they had broken all the 
windows, he took up a stone, and said, ' Now, by G — , 
I will kill you.' He threw it, and struck her on the 
side of the head. The blood gushed out, and she 
dropped down immediately." 

A little of the admiration so freely bestowed on the 
Christian virgins who perished nobly in the amphi- 
theatre might well be reserved for the no less heroic 
Methodist maiden stoned, if not to death, in her 
father's house. Methodism, however, has crystallised 
into sects, and Christianity as a whole has scaled 
heights of worldly grandeur to which particular 
branches have not yet climbed, and only recently aspired. 

Quite astonishing is the casuistry with which even 
an unworldly writer like " Robertson of Brighton " — 
a little biassed perhaps by the bigotry of triumphant 
evangelicalism — distinguishes early Christianity from 


early Methodism, the truth being that the analogy 
between them is, on all points, almost perfect. Thus, 
in his sermon on Sensual and Spiritual Excitement, 
he says: "The effects are similar. On the day of 
Pentecost, when the first influences of the Spirit de- 
scended on the early Church, the effects resembled 
intoxication. They were full of the Spirit, and mock- 
ing bystanders said, ' These men are full of new wine ' ; 
for they found themselves elevated into the ecstasy of 
a life higher than their own, possessed of powers which 
they could not control ; they spoke incoherently and 
irregularly; to the most part of those assembled, 

Later, in the discourse he observes, " The misfortune 
is that men mistake this law of their emotions; and 
the fatal error is, when having found spiritual feelings 
existing in connection, and associated, with fleshly 
sensations, men expect by the mere irritation of the 
emotions of the frame to reproduce those high and 
glorious feelings. You might conceive the recipients 
of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost acting under this 
delusion ; it is conceivable that having observed certain 
bodily phenomena — for instance, incoherent utterances 
and thrilled sensibilities coexisting with those sub- 
lime spiritualities — they might have endeavoured, by 
a repetition of those incoherencies, to obtain a fresh 
descent of the Spirit. In fact, this was exactly what 
was tried in after ages of the Church. In those events 
of Church history which are denominated revivals, in 
the camp of the Methodist and the Ranter, a direct 
attempt was made to arouse the emotions by excit- 
ing addresses and vehement language. Convulsions, 
shrieks, and violent emotions were produced, and the 


unfortunate victims of this mistaken attempt to pro- 
duce the cause by the effect, fancied themselves, and 
were pronounced by others, converted. Now the mis- 
fortune is, that this delusion is the more easy from 
the fact that the results of the two kinds of causes 
resemble each other." 

What is infinitely more obvious, and perhaps as 
great a misfortune, is the result of this method of 
interpretation. A lenient way of stating this result 
is to point out that Mary Bird has never, even in a 
symbolical sense, been canonised. The Methodists are 
a practical folk, but they would do themselves no harm 
if they copied Catholic tradition by honouring the 
memory of that devoted girl. 1 

Like their successors, the early Methodists were not 
insensible to the worth of strenuous action — one of 
the chief differences that developed themselves between 
the daughter Methodism and the parent Moravianism. 
Wesley, a man of active and sanguine temperament, 
would never have dreamed of posing as a victim, and 
many of his disciples — John Nelson, for instance — 
would have scorned an appeal ad rnisericordiam. 
Methodist critics have shown themselves far too 
squeamish towards Southey for dwelling on the joy 
with which Whitefield, Nelson, and others anticipated 
afflictions. This joy resembled the joy of battle, and 
explains the snuff of contempt with which Wesley 
alludes to the behaviour of certain commanders at the 
taking of St. Philip's Fort by the French. A force of 
nearly four thousand British soldiers were eager to 
drive out the enemy and could have done it in an 

1 The protomartyr of Methodism is said to have been William Seward, 
stoned to death at Monmouth, in 1741. 


hour, but they were told the fort was surrendered and 
ordered to cease firing. " Oh, human justice ! " ex- 
claims Wesley, " one great man is shot, and another is 
made a lord ! " 

In his Journal Wesley has given us copious extracts 
from the correspondence of pious campaigners in the 
Low Countries. These letters, evidently truthful and 
sincere, prove that, for gallantry and discipline, the 
canting redcoats could not be surpassed. Methodist 
soldiers knew how to fight, because they knew how 
to die. It is so to-day. There are a great many 
Methodists in the British army, and General Sir 
W. F. Gatacre recently expressed the wish that there 
were more. Lord Wolseley also, it is understood, takes 
considerable interest in Methodist " homes," and fully 
appreciates Methodist valour. 

In Wesley's time the spiritual foe, though hardly 
from patriotic motives, tried to press Nelson, one 
of his preachers, into the army, and Maxfield, 
another of his preachers, into the navy. Kid- 
napping was, in these instances, equivalent to trans- 
portation, the object being to get rid of social pests. 
These saucy attempts to enrich the services failed. 

A third preacher familiar with war's alarms was 
Alexander Mather, a Scotsman, of whom it is written 
that he grew up "an utter stranger to the vices 
common among men." One must assume that this 
exemplary young man — an Israelite indeed — was some- 
how persuaded of the justice of the Pretender's claim, 
for he joined a party of rebels and was present at the 
battle of Culloden. Fleeing homewards after the rout, 
he was met by his anxious mother, but his father, 
highly indignant at the escapade, not only shut the 


door in his face, but informed against him. Never- 
theless, he escaped the gallows, and after less romantic 
adventures as a baker, became first a local, and then a 
travelling, preacher, under Wesley. 

Thus we are brought to the highly interesting and 
highly important topic of the relations between Method- 
ism and the established forms of government, or, in 
other words, to the political aspect of the movement. 
Now it is a remarkable circumstance that when he 
was in Georgia, Wesley was suspected of popery. The 
ground of the suspicion was the severity of his mode 
of life, and certainly his rigorous self - discipline 
accorded better with the rules of some Roman Catholic 
orders than with the common practice of the Church 
of England. When he was in Bristol in 1739 a report 
was current that he was a papist, if not a Jesuit. The 
report may have come from America, or it may have 
arisen on the spot. Anyhow, the charge perplexed 
Wesley, who could not reconcile two such opposites 
as the doctrine of Justification by Faith — Luther's 
doctrine, which he adopted and taught — and the 
popery of the Council of Trent. 

The fact is, however, that the multitude does not 
quibble over points like these. Plain people, unversed 
in theological distinctions, perceived one thing clearly 
— that Wesley was spurned on the one hand by the 
Church, and on the other hand by Dissent. He was 
not an unbeliever, and therefore he must, by a pro- 
cess of exhaustion, be a Roman Catholic — or on the 
way to becoming one. It was natural to surmise that 
community of suffering must tend to produce corre- 
spondence of sympathy. Sentiment regarding him 
ranged from this sort of vague mistrust to the definite 


assumption that he was a secret and most able emissary 
of the Court of Rome, engaged in a dangerous pro- 
paganda. Many years later when Wesley was in 
Ireland, and preaching after his wont, some one 
inquired whether he was not a papist. " No," said a 
priest, who was present, " I wish he was." 

A papist was ipso facto an enemy of England, or, 
at least, of the existing rdgime. The Pretender was 
a papist, and anyone belonging, or suspected of belong- 
ing, to the Church of Rome, figured in the popular 
imagination as a sinister object prowling in a dark 
cloud of religious mystery and political conspiracy. 
He was not a healthy member of the commonwealth, 
a trusty liege of the Crown of England. His move- 
ments needed watching. He might be Guy Fawkes. 
The character bestowed on the Methodists has been 
excellently set forth by Wesley himself. They were 
" fellows not fit to live ; papists, heretics, traitors ; 
conspirators against their king and country." 

The habit of field-preaching appeared to some critics 
incompatible with the safety and honour of the realm. 
It afforded the enemies of the established Government 
just such opportunities as they wanted. Evil-minded 
men, by meeting together in the fields under pretence 
of religion, might raise riots and tumults. By meeting 
secretly they might carry on private cabals against the 
Government. The Methodists themselves were perhaps 
harmless and loyal people, but what if they were ? 
Disloyal and seditious persons might easily lurk in 
that vast congregation of eighty thousand attending 
Whitefield's ministrations, not a tenth of whom he 
could be reasonably expected to know. 

Such apprehensions do not seem to have been 


grounded in fact. At any rate Wesley found no diffi- 
culty in making out an excellent case in reply. He 
declared that the assertions — and the eighty thousand, 
he says, might well have been eighty millions — were 
made ad movendam invidiam, to excite ill-will ; and in 
this he was probably right. 

Wesley's Journal during the '45 breathes the 
keenest desire for the king's success, but, owing in 
part to these amiable Observations and the truthful 
and considerate Case of the Methodists, his fame as 
a rebel was spread through all parts of the kingdom. 
At Tolcarn, in Cornwall, he was informed that the 
churchwardens and constables, and all the heads of the 
parish were waiting for him at the top of the hill. 
Wesley rode on, and a gentleman said to him, " Sir, I 
would speak with you a little ; let us ride to the gate." 
They did so, and the stranger observed, " Sir, I will 
tell you the ground of this. All the gentlemen of 
these parts say that you have been a long time in 
France and Spain, and are now sent hither by the 
Pretender; and that these societies are to join him." 
" Nay, surely," exclaimed Wesley, " ' all the gentlemen in 
these parts ' will not lie against their own conscience ! " 

Late in the year Wesley was in Cheshire, where he 
learnt a Dr. C. had been industriously circulating the 
report that " Mr. Wesley was now with the Pretender, 
near Edinburgh." The calumniated preacher at once 
wrote to this well-informed gossip, and expressed the 
hope that in future he would pay more regard to truth. 

Methodism, however, had less to fear from the 
influence of high politics than from the meddling 
impertinence of Justice Shallow and the pranks of the 
beadles. The following vignette of Wesley in old age 


will give some idea of the indignities to which he was 
subjected by the minions of the law. " Passing on 
a certain occasion a considerable thoroughfare, I was a 
spectator of the different treatment preachers of the 
gospel experience in different situations. Being stopped 
by a crowd, the voice and zeal of an itinerant holder- 
forth excited my attention. I listened to his extempore 
harangue, which was animated, sensible, and well 
delivered. His efforts were fervent, his language 
clear, and his arguments, drawn from heaven and hell, 
death and judgment, were affecting. The multitude 
was motionless and silent, when two beadles made 
their appearance, suddenly laid hands on the preacher, 
and led him off (I think illegally) in disgrace. From 
the same spot a boy might have thrown a stone against 
a church which affords a sinecure of eight hundred 
pounds a year to a young Oxonian, who is an excellent 
shot, and rides the best gelding in a neighbouring 

The bugbear of beadledom was, in fact, one of the 
many points of contact between the itinerant preacher 
and the strolling player, of whose existence in 
dishabille the satirist writes : 

" The strolling tribe, a despicable race, 
Like wand'ring Arabs, shift from place to place ; 
Vagrants by law, to justice open laid, 
They tremble, of the beadle's lash afraid ; 
And fawning, cringe, for wretched means of life, 
To madam may'ress or his worship's wife." 

An interesting essay might be indited on the relations 
between Methodism and the stage. It is hardly need- 
ful to remind the reader of Whitefield's early predi- 
lection, but it is rather odd to find that John Wesley, 


the incarnation of godly sincerity, struck contem- 
poraries as attitudinising. In 1767, Wesley preached 
in Lady Huntingdon's chapel at Bath to a select con- 
gregation, which included members of the nobility. 
Among the rest was Horace Walpole, who speaks of 
the preacher as " a clean, elderly man, fresh-coloured, 
wondrous clever, but as evidently an actor as Garrick." 

The histrionic elements in Methodism inevitably 
drew the attention of fashion, and it seemed at one 
time as if the movement would become a veritable 
" craze." Whitefield was by nature far better qualified 
to succeed with great personages than Wesley, who, 
Tory as he was, waxed impatient with giggling ladies 
and " things called gentlemen," and was never surprised 
at any exhibition of bad manners, where such were con- 
cerned. Whitefield was more tolerant, less critical. 
If he could sweep an elegant woman into his net, 
or rather that of the gospel, he deemed it an achieve- 
ment worthy of some trouble. Was it not said with 
divine authority that it is easier for a camel to pass 
through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to 
enter the kingdom of heaven ? The chief period of this 
aristocratic " craze " for Methodism was approximately 
the middle of the century. Whitefield, who divided 
his activities between England and America, was 
now in the former c6untry. Chaplain to the Countess 
of Huntingdon, — most eminent of Methodist dames, and 
one who aspired to the character of heresiarch, as 
heresy was understood by Samuel Wesley, the younger, 
— the eloquent preacher formed many connections with 
the haute noblesse, whose morals badly needed mending. 

In a brace of letters, dated 1749, Walpole, who had 
a keen eye for foibles, discourses as follows : " Method - 


ism in the metropolis is more fashionable than any- 
thing but brag. The women play very deep at both ; 
as deep, it is much suspected, as the matrons of Home 
did at the mysteries of the Bona Dea. If gracious 
Anne were alive, she would make an admirable 
defendress of the new faith, and build fifty more 
churches for the female proselytes." Again, he says : 
" If you ever think of returning to England, you must 
prepare yourself with Methodism. This sort increases 
as fast almost as any religious nonsense ever did. Lady 
Frances Shirley has chosen this way of bestowing the 
dregs of her beauty ; and Mr. Lyttelton is very near 
making the same sacrifice of the dregs of all those 
characters he has worn. The Methodists love your big 
sinners, as proper subjects to work on ; and, indeed, 
they have a plentiful harvest. Flagrancy was never 
more in fashion ; drinking is at the highest wine-mark ; 
and gaming is joined with it so violently that, at the 
last Newmarket meeting, a bank bill was thrown 
down, and nobody immediately claiming it, they agreed 
to give it to a man standing by." 

Methodism, however, was a cult which, though it 
might serve the rich as a transient craze, remained as 
a lasting heritage of the poor. An acute observer of 
men and things — the author of Lacon — remarks : " In 
addressing a multitude, we must remember to follow 
the advice that Cromwell gave his soldiers, ' Fire 
low !' This is the great art of the Methodists." But 
Methodism did not stop there. It made preaching 
friars of its converts, and after they were dead, placed 
them in its calendar of saints. It has lavished hero- 
worship on eccentric persons like Billy Bray — God's 
fools. It is probable that no religious community can 


boast a richer stock of folk-lore in proportion to its 
length of life than the various branches of Methodism. 
How far this lore is calculated, as fact or fiction, to 
attract the world in general, it is hard to decide. The 
element of association is important, but much depends 
on the mode of presentation, on the author, the artist. 
Within the fold characterisations of old-world Method- 
ism, in the form of tales and idylls, obtain an immense 
vogue. Mr. Pearse has achieved notable successes in 
this direction. Of late years Mr. Lowry, Mr. Harry 
Lindsay, and others have endeavoured to win suffrages 
for Methodist literary art outside the pale. 

This love of homeliness, of blended quaintness and 
kindliness, resulting in the glorification of odd, obscure, 
illiterate people, goes back to the primitive age of 
Methodist history. Hannah More has dealt with the 
" Shepherd of Salisbury Plain," and there were other 
prophets of about his standing. The spiritual authority 
of these teachers sometimes conflicted with their 
quotidianus usus, with the duties and relations of 
their secular calling. The opponents of Methodism 
were not slow to avail themselves of this opportunity, 
and lampooned the professors of the new religion in 
verse and prose. Smollett's novel, The Expedition 
of Humphry Clinker, contains many allusions to 
Methodism in connection with the aristocracy. 
Among the rest is the following excerpt from a letter 
supposed to have been written by Sir Watkin Phillips, 
of Jesus College, Oxford : — 

"Turning down a narrow lane, behind Long Acre, 
we perceived a crowd of people standing at a door : 
which, it seems, opened into a kind of Methodist 
meeting, and were informed that a footman was then 


holding forth to the congregation within. Curious to 
see this phenomenon, we squeezed into the place with 
much difficulty ; and who should this preacher be but 
the identical Humphry Clinker ! He had finished his 
sermon and given out a psalm, the first stave of which 
he sung with peculiar graces. But if we were 
astonished to see Clinker in the pulpit, we were 
altogether confounded at finding all the females of our 
family among the audience. There was Lady Griskin, 
Mrs. Tabitha Bramble, Mrs. Winifred Jenkins, my sister 
Liddy, and Mr. Barton, and all of them joined in the 
psalmody with strong marks of devotion. 

" I could hardly keep my gravity on this ludicrous 
occasion, but old Squaretoes was differently affected. 
The first thing that struck him was the presumption 
of his lacquey, whom he commanded to come down 
with such as air of authority as Humphry did not 
think proper to disregard. He descended immediately, 
and all the people were in commotion. Barton looked 
exceedingly sheepish, Lady Griskin flirted her fan, 
Mrs. Tabby groaned in spirit, Liddy changed counten- 
ance, and Mrs. Jenkins sobbed as if her heart were 
breaking. My uncle, with a sneer, asked pardon of 
the ladies for having interrupted their devotion, saying 
that he had particular business with the preacher, 
whom he ordered to call a hackney coach 

" When we arrived at our lodgings, he commanded 
Mr. Clinker to attend him upstairs, and spoke to 
him in these words : ' Since you are called upon by 
the Spirit to preach and to teach, it is high time to lay 
aside the livery of an earthly master; and, for my 
part, I am unworthy to have an apostle in my service.' 
'I hope/ said Humphry, 'I have not failed in my 


duty to your honour. I should be a vile wretch if 
I did, considering the misery from which your 
charity and compassion relieved me. But having an 
admonition of the Spirit' — 'An admonition of the 
Devil ! ' cried the Squire, in a passion. ' What 
admonition, you blockhead ! What right has such a 
fellow as you to set up for a reformer ? ' ' Begging 
your honour's pardon,' replied Clinker, ' may not the 
light of God's grace shine upon the poor and the 
ignorant in their humility, as well as upon the wealthy, 
and the philosopher in all his pride of human learn- 
ing ? ' ' What you imagine to be the new light of 
grace,' said his master, ' I take to be a deceitful 
vapour, glimmering through a crack in your upper 
storey. In a word, Mr. Clinker, I will have no light in 
my family but what pays the king's taxes, unless it be 
the light of reason, which you don't pretend to follow.' " 

This was a game in which a man of the world, with 
a decided bias against the movement, appeared from 
the outset to hold a winning advantage. Of all the 
weapons with which Methodism could be assailed, 
ridicule was the keenest, the easiest, and in a sense the 
most just. Nascent causes, like rising politicians, 
cannot, and perhaps should not, escape this ordeal. It 
is a test of sense, and strength, and sincerity. Quite 
early in his career Wesley engaged in a passage of 
arms with the celebrated Beau Nash> and the upshot 
proved that a strong, sincere, and sensible man, with 
an old woman as ally, could vanquish so severe 
an arbiter elegantiarum, so famous a master of 
ceremonies as the King of Bath. 

" There was a great expectation at Bath of what a 
noted man was to do to me there; and I was much 


entreated not to preach, because no one knew what 
might happen. By this report I also gained a much 
larger audience, among whom were many of the rich 
and great. I told them plainly the Scripture had con- 
cluded them all under sin — high and low, rich and poor, 
one with another. Many of them seemed to be a 
little surprised, and were sinking apace into serious- 
ness, when their champion appeared, and coming close 
to me, asked by what authority I did those things. I 
replied, ' By the authority of Jesus Christ, conveyed 
to me by the (now) Archbishop of Canterbury, when 
he laid hands upon me, and said, " Take thou authority 
to preach the gospel."' He said, 'This is contrary 
to Act of Parliament. This is a conventicle.' I 
answered, ' Sir, the conventicles mentioned in that Act 
(as the preamble shows) are seditious meetings, but 
this is not such. Here is no shadow of sedition ; 
therefore it is not contrary to that Act.' He replied, 
'I say it is, and besides, your preaching frightens 
people out of their wits.' ' Sir, did you hear me 
preach ? ' ' No.' ' How then can you judge of what 
you never heard ? ' ' Sir, by common report.' 
' Common report is not enough. Give me leave, sir, 
to ask, Is not your name Nash ? ' ' My name is 
Nash.' 'Sir, I dare not judge of you by common 
report. I think it is not enough to judge by.' Here 
he paused awhile, and having recovered himself, said, 
' I desire to know what this people comes here for.' 
On which one replied, ' Sir, leave him to me. Let an 
old woman answer him. You, Mr. Nash, take care of 
your body. We take care of our souls, and for the 
food of our souls we come here.' He replied not a 
word, but walked away." 



Middleton's Free Enquiry — A Mediaeval Miracle — An Eighteenth- 
Century Miracle — "Methodism Displayed" — Wesley on 
Miracles — Wesley on Enthusiasm — A Parallel from Plato — 
Sortilege — Karlstadt and Bell — Quietism and Methodism — 
Christian Perfection — Renan's Philosophy — Amusements — 
Collision with the Moravians — Courtships — Marriage. 

From an orthodox Protestant standpoint it is hard to 
conceive a more mischievous work than Dr. Conyers 
Middleton's Free Enquiry, published in 1749. The 
object of this work was to minimise the miraculous 
element in religion, to confine it within the narrowest 
historical limits ; or, failing that, to concede the Roman 
claims. In seeking to attain this object, the author 
found it necessary to introduce many passages de- 
rogatory to primitive Christianity. The point of view 
is that of Gibbon's Decline and Fall and of Kingsley's 
Hypatia. We encounter a low and pestilent super- 
stition, interpreted by unsympathetic observers. " The 
Christian workers of miracles were always charged 
with imposture by their adversaries. Lucian tells us, 
' Whenever any crafty juggler went to the Christians, 
he grew rich immediately.' And Celsus represents the 
Christian wonder-workers as mere vagabonds and 



common cheats, who rambled about to fairs and 
markets." Wesley was so moved with indignation 
that he answered Middleton's production in a treatise 
of considerable length, abounding in tart rejoinders 
and pungent sarcasms. 

The Catholic Church has never abandoned its belief 
in the possibility of miracles ; and the truth or false- 
hood of alleged miraculous occurrences was one of the 
questions that divided Protestants and papists at the 
time of the Reformation. The following episode in 
the life of Guillaume Farel, a noble Frenchman, is 
borrowed from D'Aubigne" for the purpose of establish- 
ing an analogy. 

" Four leagues to the south of Gap, near Tallard, on 
a hill that rises above the impetuous stream of the 
Durance, was a place in great repute, named Sainte 
Croix (holy cross). William was only seven or eight 
years old when his father and mother resolved to 
take him thither on a pilgrimage. ' The cross in that 
place/ they told him, ' is made of the very wood on 
which Christ was crucified." 

" The family began their journey, and at last reached 
the highly venerated cross, before which they all fell 
prostrate. After gazing for a time on the sacred wood 
and the copper of the cross, the latter being made (as 
the priest told them) of the basin in which Christ 
washed His apostles' feet, the pilgrims turned their 
eyes to a small crucifix attached to the cross. ' When 
the devils send us hail and thunder,' continued 
the priest, 'this crucifix moves about so violently 
that it seems to get loose from the cross, as if 
desirous of running at the devil, and it continues 
throwing out sparks of fire against the storm. If 


it were not for this, nothing would be left upon 

"The pious pilgrims were deeply moved by the 
account of these wonderful prodigies. 'No one,' 
continued the priest, 'sees or knows aught of these 
things except myself and this man.' The pilgrims 
turned their heads, and saw a strange-looking person 
standing near them. ' It was frightful to look at him,' 
said Farel. White scales covered the pupils of his 
eyes, 'whether they were there in reality, or Satan 
made them appear so.' This extraordinary man, whom 
the incredulous denominated ' the priest's wizard,' on 
being appealed to by the latter, immediately replied 
that the prodigy was true." 

If Wesley had lived in the sixteenth century, it is as 
absolutely certain as anything human can be that he 
would have implicitly received this amazing narrative. 
In bis Journal for 1761 he solemnly records his belief 
in a narrative not less amazing. Jonas Rushford, a 
boy of fourteen, told him that, a year before, he had 
been requested by two neighbours to go with them 
to a Mr. Crowther's at Skipton. A man had been 
missing for twenty days, and Mr. Crowther declined to 
talk about him. He, however, commanded these two 
persons to bring a boy of twelve or thirteen, and they 
brought Jonas Rushford. 

When they entered, Crowther was engaged, harm- 
lessly or otherwise, in reading a book, but he dropped 
the book, put Jonas to bed, placed a looking-glass 
in his hand, and covered him up. The boy was 
then asked whom he would like to see. He replied 
" My mother." Presently he saw her. She had 
a lock of wool in her hand, and was standing in 


the very place and dressed in the very clothes of 
life, as was afterwards learnt from the apparition 

Jonas was now bidden to look for the man that was 
missing — a neighbour of theirs. He looked and saw him 
riding towards Idle. He was very drunk. Stopping at 
the alehouse, he drank two pints more, and pulled out 
a guinea, intending to get it changed. Two men stood 
by — one a big, the other a little man. They went 
on and procured two hedge-stakes. When he reached 
the top of the hill on Windle Common, they pulled 
the drunkard off his horse, killed him and threw 
the body into a coal-pit. Jonas deposed that he 
beheld everything as plainly as if he had been by, 
and that, if he saw the men, he should know them 

They returned to Bradford the same night, and on 
the morrow the boy repaired with his neighbours to 
the spot where the man of the mirror had been killed, 
and pointed out the pit into which the body had been 
thrown. A man thereupon descended, and lo and be- 
hold ! the corpse was brought to the surface. It was 
exactly as Jonas had told them. A handkerchief was 
tied about the dead man's mouth, and fastened behind 
his neck. 

" Is it improbable, or flatly impossible," asks Wesley, 
" when all the circumstances are considered, that this 
should be all pure fiction ? They that can believe 
this may believe a man's getting into a bottle." 
Probably he considered this one of those "lying 
wonders, diabolical miracles, or works beyond the 
virtue of natural causes, wrought by the power 
of evil spirits," which he not only accepted him- 


self, but received for others — just as if they were 

The truth is that Wesley was so impressed with the 
reality, universality, and constant operation of spiritual 
agencies, that material obstacles dwindled away to 
nought. He had hardly any sense of antecedent im- 
probability, but the likelihood of an event being super- 
natural was, in his eyes, much enhanced where moral 
considerations came into play, where the kingdom of 
God was served, where Methodism obtained striking 
attestation of divine approval and protection. On 
November 2, 1743, there was published at Newcastle 
the following advertisement : — 

Foe the benefit op Mr. Este. 

By the Edinburgh Company of Comedians, on 

Friday, November 4, 

will be acted a Comedy, called 


To which will be added a Farce, called 


This might be described as a test case. If the Al- 
mighty saw fit to intervene and express by some overt 
act His condemnation of the procedure, then Methodism, 
still in its first youth, would derive encouragement 
from the token, and go on its way rejoicing. Wesley 
has not stated whether he hoped for such recognition 
— the ways of Providence are mysterious — but he was 
able to set down some remarkable occurrences as having 
taken place in the course of the performance. 


An immense crowd of spectators assembled in the 
Moot Hall. Of the fifteen hundred people computed 
to be present, some hundreds occupied rows of seats on 
the stage. The play had no sooner begun to be acted 
than these seats collapsed, precipitating the occupants 
several feet. Nobody, however, was hurt, and, as the 
audience remained cool, the play was resumed. In the 
middle of the second act, the shilling seats gave a crack, 
and sank some inches. A partial panic ensued, and, 
amidst shrieks and confusion, troops of people left 
the hall, and did not return. The actors went on. 
At the commencement of the third act, the stage 
sank about six inches, and the players beat a retreat. 
They again appeared, but before they reached the 
end of the act, sustained a third check. Without 
a note of warning, the sixpenny seats fell to the 

The audience was now fairly alarmed. It was be- 
lieved that many had been crushed to death. The 
notion proved false, and as two or three hundred still 
lingered in the hall, Mr. Este came on the stage, and 
announced his determination that the farce should 
be played. He was in the act of speaking, when 
the stage sank another six inches. Thereupon he 
retired in great haste, and the remains of the audience 
made for the doors. 

" Which is most surprising," says Wesley, " that those 
players acted this farce the next week, or that some 
hundreds of people came again to see it ? " If Wesley 
did not mean that persons guilty of such presumption 
were challenging the fate of the unhappy creatures on 
whom the Tower of Siloam fell, he clearly implied that 
they ought to have accepted the successive interrup- 


tions as proofs of their own folly and wickedness in 
patronising the entertainment. Probably, however, he 
intended both meanings. 

To-day the verdict will be that the playgoers were 
right, and that Wesley was wrong. They, it will be 
said, showed common sense in not permitting them- 
selves to be unduly alarmed by structural defects which 
might be remedied, or their pleasures to be defeated 
by accidents that need not recur. Wesley, on the 
other hand, was superstitious, and did not allow for 
coincidence. Anyhow, he was consistent, which many 
of his critics are not. Wesley would not have 
liked to be called superstitious — he was enough a 
child of the age for that — but he was always 
far more afraid of being ungodly than of being 

Christianity rested on faith, and Wesley could not 
see why faith should be exercised in respect of events 
that occurred more than a thousand years before, and 
not in respect of contemporary incidents. He deemed 
it just as reasonable to admit Jonas Rushford's story 
as to admit the very similar story of the Witch of 
Endor's interview with King Saul. There is really no 
logical halting-place between this attitude of frank 
affirmation and the late Master of Balliol's attitude of 
pure negation — miracles do not happen. 

Wesley did not believe in a God who was the slave 
of law. In his Principles of a Methodist Farther 
Explained he remarks : " I do not know that God hath 
any way precluded Himself from thus exerting His 
sovereign power, from working miracles in any kind 
or degree, in any age, to the end of the world. I do 
not recollect any scripture wherein we are taught that 


miracles were to be confined within the limits either of 
the apostolic or the Cyprianic age ; or to any period of 
time, longer or shorter, even till the restitution of all 
things. I have not observed, either in the Old Testa- 
ment or the New, any intimation at all of this kind. 
St. Paul says, indeed, once, concerning two of the mira- 
culous gifts of the Spirit (so, I think, that text is 
usually understood), ' Whether there be prophecies, they 
shall fail, whether there be tongues, they shall cease.' 
But he does not say, either that these or any other 
miracles shall cease, till faith or hope shall cease also, 
till they all be swallowed up in the vision of God, and 
love be all in all." 

Wesley was perfectly conscious of the effect of these 
admissions. He knew that, by extending the practice 
of faith to the present, when others, more cautious, 
limited its working to the dim past or the dim future, 
he caused himself to be regarded as a peculiarly objec- 
tionable sort of visionary. With his love of logical 
precision, he puts his opponents' case in the following 
form : — 

" He that believes those are miraculous cures which 
are not so, is a rank enthusiast ; but 

" You believe those are miraculous cures which are 
not so ; therefore you are a rank enthusiast." 

It may be observed in passing that the Methodist 
leader speaks with great contempt of the general body 
of the clergy. That his severity was justified there 
can be no manner of doubt, though exception might 
perhaps be made in favour of London. Be that as it 
may, it is certain that few clerks in holy orders would 
have cared to try a fall with Wesley in the palaestra of 
open controversy, and those who did trusted more to 


ridicule than to logic or to learning. Wesley was not 
merely dexterous at fence, a casuist to make black 
white and the worse to appear the better reason ; he 
was armed cap-a-pie with ecclesiastical and general 
lore. The masked criticasters, who essayed the part 
of histriomastix in the London Chronicle and other 
journals, were flogged with enormous gusto by the 
irrepressible logician. His irony at times is positively 

"I was long in hopes of seeing an answer to this 
artful performance from someone of more leisure as 
well as abilities; and someone whose name would 
have recommended his work. For that thought has 
something of truth in it: 

' Oh what a tuneful wonder seiz'd the throng, 

When Marlbro's conquering name alarm'd the foe ! 
Had Whiznowhisky led the armies on, 
The general's scarecrow name had foil'd each blow.' 

However, who knows but reason for once may be 
stronger than prejudice ? " 

Now Methodism was then, and still is in some 
quarters, a synonym for ignorance. Enthusiasm 
was deemed incompatible with strength of mind. It 
is not surprising therefore that Wesley, who never 
shrank from investigating facts, should devote a whole 
sermon to the natural history of this phenomenon, with 
which, contrary to his wishes, his name and cause had 
come to be associated. This, in many respects model, 
discourse defines all that the term ever did, or ever 
can, denote. As he justly remarks, there have been 
attached to it different significations — significations 
so different as to be mutually exclusive. Any large 
dictionary of the language will prove that, though 


nowadays the circumstance is apt to be forgotten by- 
reason of the unanimity that prevails in the use of 
the word. In Wesley's time the opposite was the case, 
and he has done well to instance, for the instruction of 
posterity as well as for the guidance of contemporaries, 
the various senses in which the term might be and was 
employed in the eighteenth century. 

" Some take it in a good sense for a divine impulse 
or impression, superior to all the natural faculties, and 
suspending for the time, either in whole or in part, 
both the reason and the outward senses. In this 
meaning of the word both the prophets of old and the 
apostles were proper enthusiasts, being at divers times 
so filled with the Spirit and so influenced by Him who 
dwelt in their hearts that the exercise of their own 
reason, their senses, and all their natural faculties 
being suspended, they were wholly actuated by God, 
and 'spake only' as they were moved by the Holy 

" Others take it in an indifferent sense, such as is 
neither morally good nor evil. Thus they speak of 
the enthusiasm of the poets — of Homer and Virgil, in 
particular. And this a late eminent writer extends so 
far as to assert that there is no man excellent in his 
profession, whatsoever it be, who has not in his temper 
a strong tincture of enthusiasm. By enthusiasm these 
appear to understand an uncommon vigour of thought, 
a peculiar fervour of spirit, a vivacity and strength 
not to be found in common men, elevating the soul to 
greater and higher things than cool reason could have 

" But neither of these is the sense wherein the word 
' enthusiasm ' is most usually understood. The gener- 


alifcy of men, if no further agreed, at least agree thus 
far concerning it that it is something evil. And this 
is plainly the sentiment of all those who call the 
religion of the heart enthusiasm. Accordingly, I shall 
take it in the following pages as an evil, a misfortune, 
if not a fault. 

" As to the nature of enthusiasm, it is undoubtedly a 
disorder of the mind ; and such a disorder as greatly 
hinders the exercise of reason. Nay, sometimes it 
wholly sets it aside. It not only dims, but shuts the 
eyes of the understanding. It may therefore well 
be accounted a species of madness. . . . Enthusiasm 
in general may be described in some such a manner as 
this : A religious madness arising from some falsely- 
imagined influence or inspiration of God ; at least, from 
imputing something to God which ought not to be 
imputed to Him, or expecting something from God 
which ought not to be expected from Him." 

Wesley then proceeds to state some of the innumer- 
able forms of enthusiasm, not omitting to deliver a 
sharp retort to those who, as he says, " imagined them- 
selves Christians, and were not." This was the class 
most addicted to calling his followers enthusiasts, and 
he speaks of their religion as " palpable, glaring incon- 
sistency," as " an awkward mixture of real heathenism 
and imaginary Christianity." He adds, " Yet still, as 
you have so vast a majority on your side, you will 
always carry it by dint of numbers that you are the 
only men in your senses, and all are lunatics who are 
not as you are." 

Earlier in the discourse Wesley remarks, " It is easy 
to observe that the determinate thing which the world 
accounts madness is that utter contempt of all spiritual 


things and steady pursuit of things eternal ; that divine 
conviction of things not seen ; that rejoicing in the 
favour of God ; and that testimony of His Spirit with 
our spirits that we are the children of God — that is, 
in truth, the whole spirit, and life, and power of the 
religion of Jesus Christ." Now it is not, perhaps, very 
likely that Wesley, when he penned these words, had 
any distinct or vivid remembrance of Plato's Phcedrus. 
If the fashion of that subtly imagined and exquisitely 
beautiful work had been present to his mind, he would 
naturally have alluded to it, when speaking of the 
favourable sense in which the word enthusiasm was 
sometimes, though in his day seldom, understood. 
Nevertheless, there exists an interesting parallel 
between the above passage in Wesley's sermon on 
Enthusiasm and a passage in Plato's treatise on the 
Soul. The world becomes "the many." The phrase 
"that utter contempt of all temporal things and 
steady pursuit of things eternal," appears in the 
Greek as "quitting human pursuits and cleaving to 
the divine." Anyone behaving in this way is rebuked 
by " the many " as mad, whereas he is only, as Horace 
Walpole would have said, "acting ugly enthusiasm." 
" The divine conviction of things not seen " becomes in 
Platonic phraseology, " the recollecting of those things 
which our soul once saw." The other clauses are repre- 
sented partly by similar clauses in the Greek, partly 
by the trend of the passage, which well deserves to be 
compared. Even the doctrine of Christian Perfection 
which Wesley held to be the peculiar heritage of the 
Methodists, is countenanced in a sentence hardly, alas ! 

Such is enthusiasm as understood by enthusiasts. 


Wesley, however, leant, on the ground of usage, to the 
worst construction of the term as the more common. 
He speaks of " the dreadful effects of that many- headed 
monster Enthusiasm," and he liked it no better than 
the soberest of his contemporaries. Where eighteenth- 
century writers used the word enthusiasm, we should 
generally say " fanaticism." We cannot help ourselves, 
for now " enthusiasm " is hardly ever employed except 
in a good sense. Voltaire explains the difference as 
follows : " Fanaticism is to superstition what a delirium 
is to a fever, and fury to anger. He who has ecstasies 
and visions, who takes dreams for realities, and his 
imaginations for prophecies, is an enthusiast ; and he 
who sticks not at supporting his folly by murder is a 
fanatic. Bartholomew Diaz, a fugitive at Nuremberg, 
who was firmly convinced that the pope is the 
Antichrist in the Revelations, was only an en- 
thusiast, whereas his brother, who set out from Rome 
with the godly intention of murdering him, and 
who actually did murder him for God's sake, was 
one of the most execrable fanatics superstition could 

In his sermon on Enthusiasm, Wesley describes as 
enthusiasts persons " who imagine that they either do 
or shall receive particular directions from God, not 
only in points of importance, but in things of no 
moment, in the most trifling circumstances of life. 
Whereas in these cases God has given us our own 
reason for a guide, though never excluding the secret 
assistance of His Spirit. . . . Perhaps some may ask, 
' Ought we not then to inquire what is the will of 
God in all things ? And ought not His will to be the 
rule of our practice ? ' Unquestionably it ought. But 


how is a sober Christian to make this inquiry, to know 
what is the will of God ? Not by waiting for super- 
natural dreams ; not by expecting God to reveal it in 
visions ; not by looking for any particular impressions 
or sudden impulses on his mind. No; but by con- 
sulting the oracles of God. 'To the law and to the 
testimony ! ' " 

It might be supposed that in this and the ensuing 
paragraphs Wesley advanced nothing that could be 
twisted by the most ingenious misrepresentation into 
encouragement of superstitious practices. The ex- 
pressions are so guarded and yet so explicit. The 
words italicised seem fatal to religious trickery ; and 
the regulation of conduct appears based on broad 
principles to be ascertained by the diligent study of 
the Bible. At first sight this commends itself as the 
only possible interpretation of the saying, " To the 
law and to the testimony ! " On further examination, 
however, it becomes evident that the words refer to 
the custom of sortilege so prevalent among the 
Methodists. Wesley himself indulged in this prac- 
tice, and not very honestly either. When a text did 
not suit him, he rejected it, and continued searching 
in the hope that the Scriptures might show themselves 
favourable to his momentary inclination. This was 
notably the case on the occasion when Whitefield 
invited him to Bristol. The sacred oracles were dis- 
tinctly adverse, and not only adverse, but contra- 
dictory. Thus the first text declared, " And some of 
them would have taken him ; but no man laid hands on 
him," but another stated, " I will show him what great 
things he must suffer for My name's sake." However, 
the general character of the texts pointed to immedi- 


ate death as the consequence, if Wesley responded to 
Whitefield's call. 

" Get thee up into this mountain, and die in the 
mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto 
thy people." 

" And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the 
plains of Moab thirty days." 

" When wicked men have slain a righteous person in 
his own house upon his bed, shall I not now require 
his blood at your hands, and take you away from the 
earth ? " 

" Ahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him 
in the city, even in Jerusalem." 

Before this formidable array of texts Wesley natur- 
ally quailed. In the end, as we have seen, he accepted 
the invitation. He was not martyred, and this proof 
that God does not smile on such attempts to penetrate 
the veil of futurity ought to have satisfied him that 
the practice was wrong and foolish. How wrong and 
foolish it might become was made manifest in Mr. 
Lackington. When he was young, the bookseller was 
locked up that he might not attend a Methodist meet- 
ing at Taunton. In a fit of superstition he opened the 
Bible for directions what to do. He lit on the words : 
" He hath given His angels charge concerning thee, lest 
at any time thou shduldest dash thy foot against a 
stone." "This," he says, "was quite enough for me. 
So, without a moment's hesitation, I ran up two pairs 
of stairs to my own room, and out of the window 
I leaped, to the great terror of my poor mistress." 
Lackington, though not killed, was much bruised, and 
not being able to rise, was carried back into the house. 
As the result of this escapade, he had to keep his bed 


for a fortnight. " I was ignorant enough," he says, 
"to think that the Lord had not used me very well 
on this occasion." 

It would be easy to err in dealing with this aspect 
of Methodism. In one sense the incidents are charac- 
teristic of the movement, inasmuch as they reveal the 
intensity of its faith. We know better now than 
to undervalue enthusiasm. We comprehend it. In- 
stead of denouncing the emotion as frenzy, we applaud 
it as collective ambition, as the motive power of 
success. But were the eighteenth - century critics 
entirely in the wrong ? Decidedly not. Enthusiasm, 
to be useful and even safe, must be subject to discipline, 
to control. 

Southey said of the Duke of Wellington, "This 
may not be an improper occasion to observe, that the 
personal behaviour of this great captain has been, on 
all occasions, as perfect as his conduct as a general. 
To say that he is brave is to give him a praise which 
he shares with all his army, but that for which, above 
all other officers, he is distinguished, is that wonder- 
ful union of the coolest patience with the hottest 
courage, that sense of duty which restrains him from 
an ostentatious exposure of a life, of the value of which 
he could not affect to be ignorant, and that brilliant 
gallantry, which, on the proper occasions, flashes terror 
into the eyes of the enemy and kindles in his own 
army an enthusiasm which nothing can withstand." 

Mutatis mutandis the same assertions might be 
made of Wesley and his army. Among the things 
to be changed was the fact that, while Wellesley's 
lieutenants were all faithful to him, Wesley's officers 
were inclined to exalt themselves and renounce their 


fealty. It was the same in the days of the Great 
Reformation ; and Luther has been censured, though 
it would seem very unfairly, for his uncompromising 
attitude towards Karlstadt. Considering that this 
teacher held lax views on the subject of polygamy 
— a practice countenanced by the example of the 
patriarch Abraham, and therefore, he held, excus- 
able, if not absolutely meritorious, in Christians — it 
is hard to see what compromise Luther could have 
entertained with any regard for his personal respect- 
ability and the honour of the cause. 

Wesley had to deal with a similar character in 
George Bell. Both Karlstadt and Bell deluded them- 
selves with the idea that convention is not only tame, 
but worldly. They looked upon reform as a process 
that could go on indefinitely, in a kind of geometrical 
progression. There was for them no golden mean. 
Karlstadt thought that he could improve on the 
ordinarily accepted notions of morality, while Bell, 
turning his attention to the mint and cummin of conduct, 
forsook the decencies of speech for an oratory all his 
own. He became a champion in the art of ranting. 
Wesley did not like this departure, and after patient 
efforts at checking and moderating Bell, found him- 
self under the necessity of expelling him. 

The history of the affair is not lacking in interest. 
As, however, Bell did not occasion any considerable 
trouble, and as Wesley, constitutionally cool, did not 
fret at being held a preacher of devilry, there might 
be danger of overrating the incident, which did not 
prevent the spread of the movement. 

Wesley averred that he was willing to bear the 
scandal of the cross, but not the scandal of enthusiasm. 


This seems to show that he did not approve, and, so 
far as his authority went, would not permit gratuitous 
extravagance. His critics, though able to point to cases 
like Bell's, were deficient — perhaps wantonly deficient 
— in the sense of proportion, and unable — perhaps 
wantonly unable — to distinguish between things that 

In that remarkable work John Inglesant, the finest 
spiritual romance of our time, occurs the following 
passage relating to the Quietists : — " God seemed 
to have revealed Himself to thousands in such a 
fashion as to make their past lives and worship 
seem profitless and unfruitful before the brightness 
and peace that was revealed ; and the lords of His 
heritage seemed for a time to be willing that the light 
should shine. It appeared for a moment as if Chris- 
tendom were about to shake off its shackles, its infant 
swaddling clothes, in which it had been so long 
wrapped, and acknowledging that the childhood of 
the Church was past, stand forth before God with her 
children around her, no longer distrusted and enslaved, 
but each individually complete, fellow-citizens with 
their mother of the household of God. The unsatis- 
factory rotation of formal penitence and sinful lapse, 
of wearisome devotion and stale pleasures, had given 
place to an enthusiasm which believed that, instead 
of ceremonies and bowing in outer courts, the soul was 
introduced into heavenly places, and saw God face to 
face. A wonderful experience, in exchange for lifeless 
formality and rule, of communion with the Lord, with 
nothing before the believer, as he knelt at the altar, 
save the Lord Himself day by day, unshackled by 
penance and confession as heretofore. But it was 


only for a moment that this bright prospect was 
opened to the Church. The Jesuits and Benedictines 
began to be alarmed, and the Inquisition was brought 
to bear on the adherents of the sect." 

A little later Mr. Shorthouse speaks of the 
" undoubted extravagance," of which the Quietists, in 
common with other mystics, were occasionally guilty, 
and which helps to explain the alarm of the two 
orders, just as Brother Bell's vagaries help to explain 
the prejudice against Methodism. Comparing the 
Church of Rome with the Church of England, Macaulay 
remarks on the superior astuteness of the former in 
comprehending religious enthusiasts. It is doubtful, 
however, whether the pope would long have tolerated 
Methodism. It is evident that he did not tolerate 
Quietism, from which Methodism is, on one side, lineally 
descended. Madame Guyon, whose writings Wesley 
edited, was persecuted by Bossuet. This lady was 
influenced by Molinos, and she in turn influenced 
Fenelon, who was also persecuted. There was a 
limit to Roman, as there was to Anglican, gracious- 
ness. On the other hand, Wesley's autocratic demean- 
our towards persons like Bell led critics to tax him, 
not very unjustly, with exercising a kind of popedom 
over them. 

The errors of both Bell and Karlstadt were closely con- 
nected with the doctrine of Christian Perfection, which, 
again, is closely connected with the rise of genuine 
enthusiasm. If a man is enthusiastic in any pursuit — 
music, or morals, art, or politics, or sport — he will seek 
to be perfect in it. He will not be hindered by scien- 
tific demonstration that perfection is only a dream, 
an ideal ; and, for the purpose of his ambition, he will 


refuse to believe that perfection is unattainable. As 
our Lord Himself commanded His disciples " Be ye 
perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect," it is 
hard to see how this cheerful and inspiring doctrine 
can be left out of any scheme of Christianity pro- 
fessing to be complete. That its adoption may tend to 
make some men conceited, and others uncharitable, is 
no valid objection. Wesley nowhere showed his great- 
ness more than in declining to be moved by cavils. 
He would never sacrifice substance to shadow, or 
history to incident. 

Still the question remains — What sort of Christian 
Perfection ? Certainly not that of Karlstadt, which, 
by substitution of grace for law, by idolatry of private 
judgment, paved the way for the introduction of the 
harem. Certainly not that of George Bell expressing 
itself in indecorous ritual and affectation of " tongues." 
What Wesley intended by Christian Perfection was a 
certain innocence, and this apparently was our Lord's 
meaning, since He set a child in the midst of His 
disciples and declared that of such was the kingdom 
of heaven. But how can such innocence consist with 
the ways of the world, with the corruptions of society ? 
Ascetics of every school deny the possibility, and equally 
men of the world exclude perfection from the sphere of 
morals. They aim rather at a via media, at a working 
compromise as alone compatible with the weakness of 
human nature. 

Philosophers of our own time, in somewhat of the 
spirit that brought about the Renaissance, inform us 
that, if we wish to be happy, we must not be too good. 
This opinion seems to have been held very firmly by 
the late M. Renan. Writing in the North American 


Review for January 1899, M. Max O'Rell expounds 
the great French master's philosophy of life in the 
following sentences : — " Ernest Renan loved humanity 
with all its weaknesses, even because of its weaknesses. 
He held that people are often lovable on account of a 
hundred little failings and weaknesses. He sometimes 
pitied the world, but never scolded it. He was a great, 
gentle, lofty spirit, the greatest thinker and scholar of 
his time, who thought like a man, felt like a woman, 
sometimes acted like a child, and always wrote like 
an angel. Through his genius the world has been 
made happier and better. ' I am cheerful,' once wrote 
Renan, ' because, having had few amusements when 
young, I have kept my illusions in all their freshness.' 

" Children are happy and cheerful because they 
are full of illusions, of belief and confidence. When 
we are told in the Gospel of St. Matthew, that ' except 
we become as little children, we shall not enter into 
the kingdom of heaven,' I am disposed to interpret 
the verse : ' Except we become as little children, con- 
fident, believing, and unconscious of malice, we shall 
not be happy in this world.' When I read, ' Happy 
are the poor in spirit, because they shall enter into 
the kingdom of heaven,' I am disposed to say, 
' Happy are those who are determined not to know 
all the truths in life, because they shall be happy in 
the world.' 

" Renan would say to you, ' Don't take life too seri- 
ously. When you are old you will remember life with 
pleasure only by the hundreds of little follies you 
have indulged in, by the hundreds of innocent little 
temptations you have succumbed to. Avoid perfect 
people and angels of all sorts — this side of the grave. 


Man will never be perfect; love him with all his 
imperfections. Never resist impulses of generosity. 
They will make you cheerful, nay, healthy. They will 
give colour to your cheeks and prevent your flesh, 
in old age, from turning into yellow, dried up 
parchment. Come home with your pockets full of 
presents for the children. Let them put their little 
hands right down to the bottom of those pockets. 
You will be repaid, amply repaid, by their holding 
up their little round faces, to thank you in anticipation 
of what they know you have done for them.' " 

Renan's, or perhaps M. O'Rell's, exegetics need not be 
discussed. They will no doubt offend tender and sus- 
ceptible minds averse from materialising or terres- 
trialising Scripture. But, apart from exegetics, most 
wholesome individuals will find much to approve in 
M. O'Rell's deliverance, and even rigid Methodists, 
though they may not altogether bless, will assuredly 
not altogether curse the Frenchman. The evangelist 
will be prepared to love the sinner with all his imper- 
fections. The paterfamilias, it is more than likely, 
is already addicted to the pleasant customs specified 
for our imitation. Between Renan and Methodism 
there exists no antagonism — outside theology. By 
Methodism is intended the Methodism of to-day. 
Between Wesley and Renan yawns a huge chasm, 
even as regards matters concerning which the common 
sense of humanity is explicit, positive. Out of deference 
to his mother, or his mother's dust, Wesley refused to 
condemn card-playing, but he condemned amusements 
en bloc. The sentiments of the early Methodists 
on this point are well expressed in one of their 
hymns : 


" No room for mirth or trifling here, 
For worldly hope or worldly fear, 
If life so soon he gone." 

Many good Methodists have lived and died in this 
spirit. Regarding themselves as strictly on probation, 
they have chosen to treat all forms of pleasure not 
identified with the exercises of religion as, in all 
probability, wiles of the devil. Here again Methodism 
is in line with primitive Christianity. " If any be merry 
let him sing psalms." In practice, Christian Perfection 
has been sought, by the avoidance not only of ac- 
knowledged vices, but of what are called doubtful 
amusements. These are, primarily, games of hazard, 
attendance at the theatre, and dancing. Persons who 
indulge in these pleasures are considered as not on 
the road to Christian Perfection ; many Methodists 
would say that they were not Christians at all. 

Much of the odium that clings to the name " Method- 
ist " has sprung from the zeal with which Wesley and 
his followers have combated what are, to the natural 
man, indispensable gratifications. At Hayfield, in 
1755, Wesley preached the funeral sermon of Miss 
Baddiley, the incumbent's favourite daughter. During 
the discourse he referred to the text in Ecclesiastes, in 
which we are plainly told that " there is a time to 
dance." Wesley wag doubtful about this. "I know 
of no such time," he said, " except it be a time analo- 
gous to that in which David danced before the ark. 
Be careful that you don't dance yourselves into hell." 
This severe morality exasperated the parishioners, who 
loved dancing as much as Wesley loved preaching; 
and a dancing-master was imported, by way of retort. 
The dancing was carried on in an alehouse. 


Now it so happened that the innkeeper had an only- 
child, who could not endure the squeaking of the fiddles 
and the general hilarity. They seem to have affected 
him with a sort of neuralgia. The consequence was 
that, although he was confined in a back kitchen, the 
boy escaped, and, on a search being made, was found 
drowned in an adjoining river. As Mr. Tyerman 
speaks of the country people "tripping on light fan- 
tastic toe the downward path to the place of horrors," 
it may be assumed that he, in common with Wesley 
and Baddiley, conceived of the innkeeper's loss as 

It is highly questionable whether the majority of 
men will endorse this view. " Dancing, like laughter, 
is instinctive as the expression of joy. Suppress 
dancing, and you suppress joy. Suppress joy, and you 
suppress good-temper." That will be the argument. 
Bishop Heber, author of that fine missionary hymn, 
" From Greenland's icy mountains," favoured, not 
abstinence, but temperance. His widow writes : " Al- 
though his mind was deeply imbued with devotional 
feelings, he considered a moderate participation in 
what are usually called 'worldly amusements' as 
allowable and blameless." And again, " He thought 
that the strictness which made no distinction between 
things blamable only in their abuse and the practices 
which were really immoral, was prejudicial to the 
interests of true religion ; and on this point his opinion 
remained unchanged to the last. His own life, indeed, 
was a proof that amusements so participated in may 
be perfectly harmless, and no way interfere with any 
religious or moral duty." 

The truth is that on the subject of amusements — 


their kind, their amount — no definite rule can be laid 
down. Those there are — Wesley himself was one — 
who are so absorbed in a particular quest — Wesley in 
seeking souls — that they are impatient of any and 
every check, and each irrelevant pleasure is felt to be 
a hindrance. Others are of a different constitution, 
and love variety. In any case, the coercion of youth, 
to which hardly any pleasure is irrelevant, is a matter 
requiring tact and discretion. To say " Be careful 
that you don't dance yourselves into hell " is to blunder 

In one of his pre-Roman essays, Newman discourses 
with admirable lucidity on the essential, the incorrig- 
ible irreligion of young men. As Wesley grew older, 
he evinced symptoms of tolerance, and even sympathy, 
for wilful and wayward youth. On Monday, June 1, 
1762, he entered in his diary, " I met a large number 
of children just as much acquainted with God and the 
things of God as a wild ass's colt, and just as much 
concerned about them. And yet who can believe that 
those pretty little creatures have the wrath of God 
abiding on them ? " When he was past eighty he 
wrote : " On Sunday, March 18, 1787, I met the single 
women of the society [at Spitalfields] and advised 
them to make full use of the advantages they enjoyed, 
but I doubt not many had ears to hear : 

' For when had youth the leisure to be wise % ' " 

Wesley once said that he and leisure had long since 
parted company, but that, of course, was in the opposite 

There is little doubt that, in its treatment of amuse- 
ments, Methodism has been unnecessarily strict; and 


the result in many cases must have been to induce an 
unsocial and censorious frame of mind. " Mixed danc- 
ing" is a phrase that has an ugly sound, but in 
practice the social intercourse of the sexes is to be 
encouraged, as tending to banish morbid thoughts, and 
as fostering a kindly and hospitable tone between 
neighbours. At the same time there is evident ob- 
jection, even from a hedonist's standpoint, to a life of 
pure pleasure-seeking. Did not Renan observe, " I am 
cheerful because, having had few amusements when 
young, I have kept my illusions in all their fresh- 
ness ? " In that sense, Methodism was right. 

The tenet of Christian Perfection, on its ethical as 
well as on its doctrinal side, brought Wesley, at quite 
an early period, into collision with his friends the 
Moravians. It occasioned, in fact, a complete rupture of 
their relations. We find him taxing the Brethren with 
conformity to the world, with useless and trifling con- 
versation, with levity in their general behaviour, with 
joining in diversions in order to do good, with not 
reproving sin — conduct wholly inconsistent with 
Christian Perfection except as it might be defined by 
the Jesuits who, to be sure, believed in the perfectibility 
of human nature. The doctrine of Christian Perfection, 
however, formed no part of Moravian theology. It had 
come to Wesley, not from the United Brethren, but 
from Law. 

The Moravians were essentially Quietists. Their 
conception of religion was a purely passive state in 
which Christ performs all that is necessary for the 
believer. Good works and self-denial are alike re- 
jected as stultifying the high mysticism of absolute 
surrender. Christian Perfection implied self-culture, 


self-discipline. It implied the working out of one's 
own salvation. The Brethren would none of it. 
Spangenberg, the Moravian pastor with whom, it 
will be remembered, Wesley met and conversed on 
his first landing in America, displayed deep emotion. 
His hand trembled as he said, " You all deceive your 
own souls ! There is no higher state than that I have 
described. You are in a very dangerous error. You 
know not your own hearts. You fancy your corrup- 
tions are taken away, whereas they are only covered. 
Inward corruption never can be taken away till our 
bodies are in the dust." Peter Bohler, practically the 
instrument of Wesley's conversion, expressed in home- 
lier phrase the same conviction: "Sin will and must 
always remain in the soul. The old man will remain 
till death. The old nature is like an old tooth ; you 
may break off one bit, and another, and another ; but 
you can never get it all away. The stump will stay as 
long as you live, and sometimes will ache too." 

As Wesley was no less firm in insisting on his 
favourite doctrine, separation seemed inevitable. In 
order to prevent such a result, Count Zinzendorf him- 
self, the apostle of simplicity, came over to England 
and met Wesley in Gray's Inn Walks. From the out- 
set Zinzendorf took the upper hand, and asked Wesley 
why he had changed his religion. " You have affirmed," 
he said, " in your epistle, that they who are true Chris- 
tians are not miserable sinners, and this is most false ; 
the best of men are most miserable sinners, even till 
death. They who teach otherwise are either absolute 
impostors, or they are under a diabolical delusion. 
You have opposed our brethren who taught better 
things; and when they offered peace, you denied it. 


I loved you greatly when you wrote to me from 
Georgia ; then I knew that you were simple at heart. 
You wrote again ; I knew that you were simple at heart, 
but that your ideas were disturbed. You came to us, 
and then your ideas were more and more confused." 

Zinzendorf's recollections were correct. Wesley's 
pedagogues had reported him a homo perturbatus. 
He had lacked simplicity. His head had gained an 
ascendency over his heart. If that were true then, 
how much more true was it now ! The tendency to 
heresy had blossomed into this deadly nightshade of 
Christian Perfection. The Count was fierce, implac- 
able. He would hold no parley, grant no quarter. 
He treated the new doctrine as a doctrine of devils. 
" I acknowledge no inherent perfection in this life. 
This is the error of errors. I persecute it through all 
the world with fire and sword. I trample upon it, I 
destroy it. Christ is our only Perfection. All Chris- 
tian Perfection is faith in the blood of Christ. It is 
imputed, not inherent. We are perfect in Christ ; we 
are never perfect in ourselves." That no doubt might 
l'emain on the subject, Zinzendorf permitted himself 
to use language which, perhaps, expressed rather his 
own impatience and desire to end the controversy than 
the faith and practice of the general body of his co- 
religionists. " We reject all self-denial ; we trample 
on it. In faith we do whatever we desire, and nothing 
more. We laugh at all mortification ; no purifying 
precedes perfect love." 

It is certain that the two men did not understand 
each other. Zinzendorf was content with ideas, 
whereas Wesley, like a practical Englishman, was 
anxious to see the fruits of righteousness. He was 


ambitious ; he aimed at reform. He figured to himself 
perfection as the end, and love as the breeze to waft 
the Christian believer nearer and nearer to that glorious 
destination. Where love exists in any high degree, it 
is absurd to speak of self-denial. The pang is gone. 
Wesley was therefore right in saying that the dispute 
was mainly about words, but he promised that, with 
God's help, he would ponder the Count's admonitions. 
These pious and proper expressions appeared to 
prelude, if not unity, at least external friendliness and 
inward charity. But Zinzendorf and Wesley were 
both strong-willed, not to say stiff-necked. The two 
popes excommunicated each other. The Count dis- 
owned the Wesleys through the profane and public 
agency of the Daily Post and the Daily Advertiser. 
Wesley, in turn, recorded his opinions and feelings in 
his own private and confidential Journal. 

In the autumn of 1749 Wesley received a sym- 
pathetic letter from an unexpected quarter. John 
Martin Bolzius, a Moravian pastor settled in Georgia, 
and the identical person whom he had conceived it his 
duty to drive from the Lord's Table, wrote to inform 
him that " the Lord had not permitted the Herrnhuters 
(falsely called the Moravians) nor other false teachers 
to creep in among them." Wesley did not set much 
store by this distinction, nor was he perhaps greatly 
comforted by the assurance that the Herrnhuters had 
not as yet gained a footing in the colony. That they 
were active and zealous in the mother-country is 
proved by the following letter addressed to the editor 
of the Daily Post : — 

" Whosoever reckons that those persons in England 
who are usually called Moravians and those who are 


called Methodists are the same, is mistaken. That 
they are not the same people is manifest enough out of 
the Declaration of Louis, late Bishop and Trustee of 
the Brethren's Church, dated at London, March 1743 ; 
which I here send you, as I find it printed in a 
collection of original papers of the Brethren, printed at 
Biidingen, called the ' Biidingen Sammlung,' vol. iii. 
p. 852." 

Wesley comments on this notification : " The 
Methodists, so-called, heartily thank Brother Louis for 
his Declaration, as they count it no honour to be in 
any connection either with him or his Brethren. But 
why is he ashamed of his name ? The Count's name is 
Ludwig, not Louis; no more than mine is Jean or 
Giovanni." There is an obvious pettiness, as well as 
pettishness, in this rejoinder, and throughout Wesley 
was sarcastic and satirical rather than justly (or un- 
justly) indignant. On the first occasion of the rift, he 
fell foul of the Count's aristocratic titles. " Was there 
ever such a Proteus under the sun as this Lord 
Fray deck, Domine de Thurstain, etc. etc., for he has 
almost as many names as he has faces or shapes. Oh, 
when will he learn (with all his learning) simplicity 
and godly sincerity ? When will he be an upright 
follower of the Lamb, so that no guile may be found 
in his mouth ? " 

For "the well-known little fool and poor sinner," 
as he subscribed himself, the allusion to simplicity and 
godly sincerity, if he read it, must have been the most 
unkindest cut of all, since it was on those virtues that 
he insisted, insisted, insisted. However, Zinzendorf 
was not the sole, nor perhaps the worst, offender. 
Wesley discovered that the Moravians were anti- 


nomian, not only in creed, but in deed. " The 
particulars," he says in one place, " are too shocking to 
relate." Nevertheless, on the testimony of Mr. K — , 
a brother renegade, he enters in his Journal for 
December 22, 1751, a particular account of their 
vices, which, if Mr. K — was truthful, rivalled those of 
Tiberius on the isle of Capreae. The Moravians had 
become " cruel and deceitful men " — certainly, a notable 
change from the time when they stood for Wesley in 
lieu of the apostles. It is an unpleasant trait in the 
character of this great man that he could not part 
from old friends without discharging at them the 
venom of abuse. Law had been reproached with his 
temper, and now the Moravians are worse than 
immoral. Doubtless, there were faults on both sides, 
but somehow Wesley creates the impression of sacri- 
ficing too largely on the altar of revised infallibility. 
He did not recant beliefs; he added to or modified 
them. He did recant — and it was not to his credit — 

It was towards his fathers in God that Wesley 
chiefly exhibited asperity. To be sure, he wrote 
of George Bell and similar fry with contemptuous 
indifference, but for them he had professed neither 
affection nor reverence. When, however, it was a 
question of George Whitefield, a son in the gospel of 
whom he felt he could be proud, Wesley, it is just to 
state, was a monument of patience. About the year 
1741 there arose serious differences between Whitefield 
and the Wesleys concerning predestination. White- 
field was a convinced Calvinist, as were many other 
leading Methodists — notably Cennick. On the other 
hand, "brother Charles pleased the world with 


universal redemption, and brother John followed him 
in everything." 

That was Cennick's story. Whatever Cennick 
might say, and he said besides that no atheist could 
preach more against predestinarianism than the Wesley 
brothers, John Wesley had always treated both men 
and doctrine with marked tenderness. He knew that 
there were Calvinists among his followers, but he 
took no steps to expel them, or, rather, he only 
expelled them when they abandoned themselves to 
slandering and backbiting. Then " I, John Wesley," 
did declare certain specified persons to be no longer 
members of the band society. 

It might perhaps have been well had the disciplinary 
process began sooner. A woman had complained to 
Charles Wesley of her husband, who had embraced the 
predestinarian gospel, had returned home elect, and 
had celebrated the discovery by beating his wife. 
The ignorance, if not the brutality, of this Calvinist 
was equalled by that of two "prophets" who, about 
this time, called on John Wesley with a message from 
God. This was to the effect that very shortly he 
would be born'd again. One of them added that they 
would stay in the house till all was accomplished — 
unless they were turned out. As the weather was 
rough, Wesley had compassion on their infirmities. 

The last charge that could be brought and sustained 
against Wesley was that of favouring needless 
expulsions. So far from wishing to rid himself of 
predestinarian malcontents, he sought to conciliate 
them by himself adopting Calvinism on its positive 

There were three points in dispute — unconditional 


election, irresistible grace, and final perseverance. As 
regards the first, Wesley held, though he did not think 
the matter capable of proof, that God "has uncon- 
ditionally elected some persons, thence eminently 
styled ' the elect ' to eternal glory," but he would not 
allow that everyone not so elected must perish 
eternally. Secondly, with reference to the highly 
favoured few, those specially elect (if any there 
were), the grace of God was of necessity irresistible. 
But it did not follow that Hell was to be the portion 
of all who were not the subjects of that particular 
kind of grace. The belief in final perseverance he 
found unobjectionable. There was a stat$ in this life 
from which a man could not finally fall, and this state 
the man had attained who could say, " Old things are 
passed away ; all things in me are become new." All 
those eminently styled "the elect" would infallibly 
persevere to the end. 

These concessions did not satisfy Whitefield, who 
published a sermon in which he assailed, inter alia, 
Wesley's habit of casting lots. The allusion, as it was 
not germane to the discussion, must be taken as 
evidence of some heat ; and Whitefield, recognising his 
fault, had the good sense to apologise. Wesley did not 
reply to the pamphlet. "You may read Whitefield 
against Wesley," he said, "but you shall never read 
Wesley against Whitefield." The strong antagonism 
of their views was, however, made manifest in a 
conversation that took place after a private assembly 
in which Whitefield had propounded his opinions with 
peculiar vigour and gusto. 

" Brother," asked Wesley, " are you aware of what 
you have done to-night ? " 


" Yes," said Whitefield, " I have defended truth." 

" You have tried to prove," answered Wesley, " that 
God is worse than the devil, for the devil can only 
tempt a man to sin. But, if what you have said be 
true, God forces a man to sin ; and therefore, on your 
system, God is worse than the devil." 

Co-operation in these circumstances was impossible, 
but, so far as feeling was concerned, it is pleasing to 
record that, through the good offices of Howell Harris, 
a warm - hearted Welsh preacher, the two great 
Methodists were fully reconciled. " Mr. Wesley," 
wrote Whitefield in 1742, " I think is wrong in some 
things ; but I believe he will shine bright in glory. I 
have not given way to him, or to any whom I thought 
in error — no, not for an hour ; but I think it best not 
to dispute where there is no probability of convincing." 
Again, in a communication addressed to Wesley on 
October 11 of that year, he observes, "I had your 
kind letter, dated October 5. In answer to the first 
part of it, I say, ' Let old things pass away, and all 
things become new.' I can also heartily say ' Amen ' 
to the latter part of it — ' Let the king live for ever 
and controversy die.' It has died with me long ago. 
I thank you, dear sir, for praying for me. I have 
been upon my knees praying for you and yours, and 
that nothing but love, lowliness, and simplicity may be 
among us ! " 

However, the leaders continued to work on independ- 
ent lines. Whitefield, when in England, poured forth 
torrents of eloquence in his Tabernacles, and Wesley 
prosecuted his task of " spreading scriptural holiness 
throughout the land." But there was no more bitter- 
ness. When, in 1770, tidings were brought from 


America of Whitefield's death, Wesley, at the request 
of his executors, preached his funeral sermon. 

Although the relations between Whitefield and 
Wesley were thus happily adjusted, the controversy 
did not end, and Wesley had to encounter the pointed 
and poisoned shafts of many ireful Calvinists, including 
Augustus Toplady, writer of " Rock of Ages," and the 
celebrated Rowland Hill. In 1776 was published a 
twopenny pamphlet entitled, " A necessary Alarm and 
most earnest Caveto against Tabernacle Principles and 
Tabernacle Connections; -containing the substance of 
an extraordinary Harangue and Exhortation, delivered 
at Penzance, in August 1774; on an extraordinary 
occasion. By J. W., Master of very extraordinary 
Arts." Toplady reviewed this pamphlet in his Gospel 
Magazine. He described it as "a delicate satire on 
Wesley," and hoped that " the cream of tartar, so ably 
administered by the anonymous physician, would prove 
a sweetener of the patient's crudities, and conduce to 
carry off some portion of his self -sufficiency." 

In the following year Rowland Hill entered the lists. 
He issued an octavo pamphlet of forty pages, which he 
styled " Imposture Detected and the Dead Vindicated ; 
in a Letter to a Friend : containing some gentle 
Strictures on the false and libellous Harangue, lately 
delivered by Mr. John Wesley, upon his laying the 
first stone of his new Dissenting Meeting-house, near 
the City Road." 

According to this account, Wesley's sermon was a 
wretched harangue, from which the blessed name of 
Jesus was almost totally excluded. By erasing about 
half a dozen lines the shrewdest of readers might be 
defied to discover whether the lying apostle of the 


Foundery was a Jew, a papist, a pagan, or a Turk. 
The late ever-memorable Mr. Whitefield was being 
scratched out of his grave by the claws of a designing 

Wesley was a libeller, a dealer in stolen wares. He 
was as unprincipled as a rook, and as silly as a jack- 
daw, first pilfering his neighbour's plumage, and then 
going proudly forth, displaying his borrowed tail to 
the eyes of a laughing world. 

Persons that were toad-eaters to Mr. John Wesley 
stood in need of very wide throats, and that which he 
wished them to swallow was enough to choke an 
elephant. He was for ever going about raising Dissent- 
ing congregations, and building Dissenters' meeting- 
houses the kingdom over. Yet you could not love 
the Church, unless you went to Wesley's meeting- 
house; nor be a friend to the established bishops, 
priests, and deacons, unless you admired Wesley's 
ragged legion of preaching barbers, cobblers, tinkers, 
scavengers, draymen, and chimney-sweepers. 

With regard to Wesley's personal character, venom 
distilled from his graceless pen. Mr. Whitefield was 
blackened by the venomous quill of this grey-headed 
enemy to all righteousness. Wesley was a crafty 
slanderer, an unfeeling reviler, a liar of the most 
gigantic magnitude, a Solomon in a cassock, a wretch, 
a disappointed Orlando Furioso, a miscreant apostate, 
whose perfection consisted in his perfect hatred of all 
goodness and good men. 

This was evidently designed as a final and terrific 
onslaught on the champion of Arminianism; and, in 
so far as a ramping and a roaring style could inspire 
terror or crush opposition, the effort was doubtless 


successful. But ridicule, though always unpleasant, 
sometimes fails of its effect. It tends to fail, when it 
is palpably overdone. 

As partly explaining the violence of these tirades, 
it should be recorded that Wesley's conference in 1776 
had made certain official pronouncements on Calvinism. 
It had been adjudged the grand hindrance of the work 
of God, and preachers had been requested to pray con- 
stantly and earnestly that God would stop the plague. 
Tyerman asks " Was it wise to publish this ? " Voild ! 

Wesley's Calvinistic enemies found a most useful 
and unscrupulous ally in his wife. Possessing herself 
of some of his letters, she wilfully corrupted the text 
so as to make innocent spiritual allusions yield a sense 
the furthest from his thoughts. The letters thus 
metamorphosed were placed in the hands of his 
antagonists to make any use of them they pleased. 
Of course, the correspondence was printed in the 
public journals, and for a time the enemies of Method- 
ism enjoyed a great triumph. Charles Wesley was 
agonised, and urged his brother to adopt measures for 
the vindication of his character. But the elder brother, 
wisely or unwisely, preferred to do nothing. He had 
become so used to every sort of libel that he had 
ceased to care what men said of him ; and he was 
almost a complete -stranger to depression. He once 
said that he had never in his life suffered from " low- 
ness of spirits " for a quarter of an hour — a remarkable 
statement, when it is remembered that, for thirty 
years, he was burdened with a wife who was to him 
all that a wife should not be. 

As the circumstances of Wesley's marriage threw 
into relief his characteristic virtues and defects, and 


as the fact itself might have had important con- 
sequences for Methodism, it will be necessary to devote 
attention to acts of stupendous folly. 

When Charles Wesley had attained the mature age 
of forty-one, he entered the bonds of matrimony with 
Miss Sarah Gwynne. The nuptial ceremony was per- 
formed by his brother John, who said of the occasion 
that it " was a solemn day such as became the dignity 
of a Christian marriage." The venture proved success- 
ful in every way except that it tempered the bride- 
groom's ardour for evangelical toil, and narrowed his 
horizon to the daily round and common task of 
parochial duty. It is probable, however, that, had 
he never enjoyed the sweets of domestic retirement, 
Charles's sober disposition and hatred of notoriety 
would have conduced to the same result. 

From the time of this wedding John Wesley seems 
to have experienced a kind of unrest. He had been 
used to take a severely ascetic view of marriage. At 
twenty-seven, he tells us, he held it unlawful for a 
priest to marry ; and, at a later period, he could not 
disassociate a suspicion of impurity from the marriage 
bed. Whether he was still affected by this prejudice 
when he was wooing Miss Sophy, or thought it better 
to take her, impurity and all, rather than go without her 
agreeable society, is an enigma, and a difficult one. 
Anyhow, at forty-six, he had vanquished this scruple, 
and to wed or not to wed had come to be a question, 
not of lawfulness, but of expediency. By expediency 
must not be understood worldly prudence. Wesley, 
disregarding scriptural advice, hardly ever sat down 
to count the cost. But he saw no reason why he 
should not do as other men, and it was reasonable to 


conclude that he would make a much better husband, 
father, citizen, and friend than the vast majority of 
those who assumed marital responsibilities from worldly 
or carnal motives. Tyerman maintains that, if the 
woman he married had been worthy of him, he would 
have been one of the most loving husbands that ever 
lived. Perhaps so. No doubt he was, in his awkward 
way, affectionate. But sentiment, though too much 
disparaged by professional match - makers, is no 
adequate basis for marriage. To do him justice, 
Wesley never supposed that it was, but other con- 
siderations presented themselves when he was morally 
or actually committed to a choice recommended by 
sentiment alone. 

It was safe to predict that Wesley, who was as 
anxious to obtain a worthy partner as ever Tyerman 
could have been for him, would confine his researches 
to the modest females of his own persuasion. His eye 
fell on a buxom young widow of twenty-six, who 
nursed him through a week of biliousness at Newcastle. 
He asked her to be his wife. Grace Murray was 
overwhelmed with joy. She thought it too great a 
blessing, and as she was reluctant to part from him, 
Wesley took her on a preaching tour through York- 
shire and Derbyshire. When their first raptures had 
subsided, he left her in charge of one of his preachers, 
John Bennet. Now it was so that a year before she 
nursed Wesley, Grace Murray had ministered to this 
same John Bennet, and they had corresponded ever 
since. After spending some time with him, she found 
that it was the Lord's will that she should marry him, 
but, on receipt of a letter, the pious coquette thought 
better of this resolve, and her inclinations again veered 


towards Wesley. But not permanently. Jealousy of 
Molly Francis seized her, and then, once more, John 
Bennet had the cry. At length the two candidates 
met, and on being told that his letters to the lady had 
been regularly forwarded to his rival, Wesley resigned 
his claim. His inamorata, however, refused her con- 
sent to the arrangement. Determined to live and die 
with him, she insisted on immediate marriage. There- 
upon Wesley rehearsed his old tricks. As he had 
served Sophy, so also did he serve Grace. He would 
not marry her at once, because he wished — (1) To 
satisfy John Bennet ; (2) to procure his brother's con- 
sent ; (3) to send an account of his reasons for marrying 
to all the preachers and societies, and to desire their 
prayers. For the accomplishment of these conditions 
he thought that less than a year might suffice, but, 
whether or no, the lady vowed that she would not 
wait longer. 

In all this Wesley betrayed woeful ignorance of 
human nature. Grace had been nattered by his notice, 
and, like any other young woman, relished the idea 
of promotion. But, of course, she loved Bennet, and 
Bennet loved her. When Wesley spoke of satisfying 
Bennet, he spoke of the impossible. It was equally 
impossible to procure his brother's consent. Charles 
Wesley was not the man to tolerate as sister-in-law a 
person who had filled the humble position of domestic 
servant, and who was in no sense his equal. If Mrs. 
Charles Wesley did not oppose the match with frantic 
and unnatural energy, she must have been unlike most 
of her sex. As much, or nearly as much, might be 
predicated of the preachers and societies. They would 
dislike and disdain the queenship of a translated 


nobody. If Sister Lyddell was offended because Grace 
Murray had the impudence to ride into Newcastle 
with Wesley, what would have been her feelings if 
bidden to salute her as his wife ? Perhaps she would 
have done as requested, and prayed for him, but it 
requires an effort to imagine that she would have 
prayed for her. 

Apprised of his brother's intentions, Charles lost 
no time in placing the consequences before him. The 
preachers would inevitably "strike." The societies 
would break up — in fact, were breaking up. John, 
however, was obdurate. Charles then turned to the 
would-be bride. He met her, kissed her, and cried, 
"Grace Murray, you have broken my heart." This 
was a singular greeting, but Charles was wily, and 
the lady understood him perfectly. He coaxed Grace 
to Newcastle, and to Bennet. The impulsive female 
threw herself at her lover's feet — she implored his 
forgiveness — and within a week they were wedded at 
St. Andrew's Church. 

John vehemently resented this interference of 
Charles, and when next he contemplated matrimony, 
was careful not to stipulate for his brother's acqui- 
escence. Faithful John and fickle Grace were married 
towards the end of September 1745. In July of the 
same year, Charles had been introduced at Edward 
Perronet's to a " woman of sorrowful spirit." She was 
a Mrs. Vazeille. In 1750 this lady accompanied him 
on a visit to his wife's relations ; and, on her return, 
entertained Mr. and Mrs. Wesley for some eight or 
nine days at her home in London. On February 2, 
1751, he records the outcome of these civilities. " My 
brother told me he was resolved to marry. I wa8 


thunderstruck, and could only answer he had given 
me the first blow, and his marriage would come like 
a coup de grdce. Trusty Ned Perronet followed, and 
told me the person was Mrs. Vazeille ! — one of whom 
I never had the least suspicion. I refused his com- 
pany to the chapel, and retired to mourn with my 
faithful Sally. I groaned all the day, and several 
following ones, under my own and the people's 
burdens. I could eat no pleasant food, nor preach, 
nor rest, either by night or by day." 

These expressions leave us in no doubt what 
Charles's reply would have been if John had been so 
indiscreet as to ask his consent. Experience had taught 
him more than one lesson, and he had probably come 
to think that Charles would never, under any circum- 
stances, have given consent to his marriage. This time he 
contented himself with an approving conscience and the 
general sanction of the Rev. Vincent Perronet, already 
mentioned as a warm friend and sympathiser. " Having 
received a full answer from Mr. Perronet, I was clearly 
convinced that I ought to marry. For many years I 
remained single, because I believed I could be more 
useful in a single than in a married state. And I 
praise God, who enabled me so to do. I now as fully 
believed that, in my present circumstances, I might be 
more useful in a married state." 

Although Wesley conceived that, personally, he 
might be of more use in a married state, he was far 
from thinking that all single men should follow his 
example. Four days after he had acquainted his 
brother with his resolution, he met the bachelors of 
the society in London, and pointed out for how many 
reasons " it was good for those who had received that 


gift from God to remain single for the kingdom of 
heaven's sake, unless where a particular case might be 
an exception to the general rule." It would have been 
more satisfactory, perhaps, if Wesley had recanted 
entirely. It has been said that he did not recant his 
opinions, but added to, or modified, them, whereas he 
did recant persons. On this occasion he recanted 
himself. 1 

It seems likely that the precariousness of his pre- 
sent views, the memory of his former vacillations, and 
his recent taste of female inconstancy, caused Wesley 
to reflect that delays are dangerous. Who knew but 
Mrs. Vazeille might have two strings to her bow, or, as 
it might be expressed with equal propriety, two beaus 
to her string ? 

Wesley ran no unnecessary risks. After a brief 
courtship of sixteen days at the most, he led her, 
apparently nothing loth, to the altar. According to 
the fashion of the period, the Gentleman's Magazine 
thus announced the event : " February 18. — Rev. Mr. 
John Wesley, Methodist preacher, to a merchant's 
widow in Threadneedle Street, with a jointure of 
£300 per annum." There were four children, and the 
bride's fortune — £10,100 invested in three per cent, 
consols — was secured to her and them. 

Wesley therefore was not quite the happy man that 
he appeared, even from a financier's standpoint. It is 

1 Rowland Hill, in his Review and Farrago Double-distilled, tackled 
Wesley on this seeming inconsistency. " Mr. W. says that his thoughts 
on a single life are just the same as they have been these thirty years. 
Why then did he marry?" Wesley's first answer was, "For reasons 
best known to himself." This he afterwards explained by adding, "As 
much as to say, I judge it extremely impertinent for any but a superior 
to ask me the question." 



hard to say how far he was actuated in his choice by 
the circumstance of Mrs. Vazeille possessing private 
means. Wesley was in no sense avaricious, but he 
might have deemed it an advantage that, in marry- 
ing, he would impose no fresh burden on the societies. 
Without controversy, he imposed a fresh and very 
heavy burden on himself. 

Mrs. Vazeille was no angel ; she was indeed — in the 
language of St. Paul — a messenger of Satan, sent to 
buffet him. At first she went with him on his journeys 
and interested herself in the welfare of his societies. 
Whether, however, her presence was calculated to 
enhance her husband's influence is extremely doubtful. 
Prior to her first marriage, she appears to have been 
a not too respectable domestic servant, and was 
still very illiterate. On those or similar grounds 
both Charles and his beloved Sally treated her with 
coolness ; and, as she was a woman of jealous and 
violent temper, and had reigned supreme over the 
late Mr. Vazeille, it is more than probable that she 
visited this coolness on John. 

His prospects of happiness had now become very 
small, but Wesley was foolish enough to lessen them 
by a Platonic friendship with Sarah Ryan, a magdalen 
whom he had installed as his housekeeper at Bristol. 
He corresponded with this woman in unguarded terms. 
" You have refreshed my bowels in the Lord. I not 
only excuse, but welcome your simplicity ; and what- 
ever freedom you use, it will be welcome." He asked 
her about her dreams. " Is there no vanity or folly in 
your dreams? — no temptation that almost overcomes 
you ? And are you then as sensible of the presence of 
God, and as full of prayer, as when you are waking ? " 


While her husband cannot be acquitted of indis- 
cretion, Mrs. Wesley revelled and rioted in suspicions. 
She affirmed, and perhaps believed, that Charles's 
immaculate Sally had been for years his brother's 
mistress. John complained to Sarah Ryan that he was 
" continually watched over for evil," and that his fond 
words were requited by " a thousand little tart unkind 
reflections." Unhappily, his sorrows were not confined 
to espionage and abuse. Considering the kind of state- 
ments she bandied about in public, it will occasion no 
surprise that, in private, his wife bandied about John 
Wesley himself. Herculean John Hampson, in an 
address to his son, casts a powerful side-light on their 
domestic relations. 

" Jack," he said, " I was once on the point of com- 
mitting murder. Once, when I was in the north of 
Ireland, I went into a room and found Mrs. Wesley 
foaming with fury. Her husband was on the floor, 
where she had been trailing him by the hair of his 
head; and she herself was still holding in her hand 
venerable locks which she had plucked up by the 
roots. I felt as if I could have knocked the soul out 
of her." 

About this time Wesley penned and sent to his wife 
what Tyerman designates a "manly, noble, loving 
letter," which ought,, he thinks, to have produced a 
good effect. The epithets will serve, for Wesley's 
patience was indeed wonderful. As diplomacy, the 
effort was contemptible. In the first place, the letter 
was argumentative, and an angry woman pays no heed 
to argument. Secondly, it was historical. It raked 
up his wrongs in order to show what a good man he 
was, and how fortunate she might deem herself in 


possessing him. It began by assuming that she was 
the subject of divine chastisement, and, to convince 
her thereof, criticised her offspring. God had given 
her a dutiful, but sickly daughter. He had taken 
away one of her sons. Another had been a " grievous 
cross," and the third would probably turn out as bad. 
It was not chary of good advice. " Do not any longer 
contend for mastery, for power, money, or praise. Be 
content to be a private, insignificant person, known 
and loved by God and me." In conclusion, it tells her 
that, if she would allow him to be governed by God 
and his own conscience, he, for his part, would govern 
her with gentle sway. Wesley had yet to prove that 
he could govern her at all. To speak of governing 
such a wife was at once impolitic and laughable, unless 
he was prepared to enact the taming of a shrew. 

On, or of, January 23, 1771, Wesley wrote in his 
Journal, " For what cause I know not, my wife set 
out for Newcastle, purposing never to return. Non 
earn reliqui ; non dimisi ; non revocabo." These 
stately expressions have somewhat the effect of Caesar's 
veni, vidi, vici, though it is obvious that Wesley's 
methods were not those of Caesar. Mrs. Wesley had 
gone on a long visit to her "dutiful, but sickly" 
daughter, who had married a Mr. Smith. Fourteen 
months later, the elderly pair again came together. 
The matter is too grave for a jest, but, really, there is 
something in this flight of groundless jealousy and 
Wesley's non dimisi; non revocabo that irresistibly 
suggests Mr. Baring - Gould's witty little tale, " A 
Runaway Wife." Comparison of the cases teaches 
that ordinary, unambitious people, well-matched, have 
a far better hope of composing their differences than 


such couples as Wesley and his wife, each endued with 
a taste and a talent for ruling. Mrs. Wesley was 
desirous of managing her husband, of making him 
exclusively her own. When his soaring spirit rose 
superior to her toils, all that was evil in her nature 
asserted itself. 

In 1778 he wrote to her from Bristol : " If you were 
to live a thousand years, you could not undo the mis- 
chief you have done ; and until you have done all you 
can towards it, I bid you farewell." On October 8, 
1781, Wesley's evil genius set out for some other 
sphere than Newcastle. 

The entries in Wesley's Journal were, it is plain, 
not always made on the dates to which they refer. 
Thus, under "October 12," he remarks, "I came to 
London, and was informed that my wife died on 
Monday. This evening she was buried, though I was 
not informed of it till a day or two after." Wesley 
adds no comment, and the inscription on her tomb 
reveals a striking omission. " A woman of exemplary 
piety, a tender parent, and a sincere friend" — thus 
runs the epitaph. But Southey says of her that " she 
deserves to be classed with Xanthippe, and the wife of 
Job, as one of the three bad wives." Of her fortune, 
now reduced by one half, he received not one penny, but 
she left him a ring. St. Paul tells us that marriage is 
a great mystery. It is always that, but to Wesley it 
must have appeared a mystery of iniquity. 



Out of Place — Charity — Principles of Methodism and the 
Reformation Contrasted — Wesley no Sectary — Early 
Aspirations — Character and Constituents of Methodism — 
Origin of the Class-Meeting — Precedents — Lay-Preachers — 
Education — Hymnology — Methodism in America — Ordina- 
tions — Episcopal Resentment — Wesley in Old Age — Death 
and Burial — A Man. 

The incidents of Wesley's courtships and marriage 
tend to obscure his extraordinary abilities, and it must 
be conceded that they disclose an element of weakness. 
He had the gift of continence, but he had not the gift 
of discernment of spirits, nor the gift of judgment, 
nor the gift of tact. The moment he approached the 
delicate questions involved in the distinction of sex, 
his mental apparatus seemed to fail. He was either 
too slow or too fast. He was less absorbed than 
absorbing. He demanded homage, obedience. 

Though the results were less miserably obvious, the 
same incapacity displayed itself in every relation of 
life which Wesley was not permitted to dominate. He 
could bear with a superior of his own appointing, one 
whom he could dismiss at pleasure. He bore with 
Zinzendorf, for instance. He could bear even with 



bishops and archbishops, if they kept their place and 
did not obstruct his personal schemes. A copartner, 
however, insisting on perfect equality, he could not, 
and would not, bear; and he bowed to no authority 
save God and his own conscience. 

Now Wesley was a priest of the Church of England. 
He acknowledged her as a branch of the Church 
Catholic. He served, and loved, and honoured her. 
But successive Prime Ministers neglected to make him 
Archbishop of Canterbury, and thus Wesley was pre- 
vented from accomplishing his task without schism. 
Not that he was ambitious — at least, in any vulgar 
sense — of that great office, but, seated in the chair of 
St. Augustine, he might have converted the Church into 
a hotbed of Methodism. The only possible alternative 
was to recognise him as a Black Pope. The constitution 
of the English Church knew nothing of Black Popes, 
and so in the end there was no stopping the projection 
into space of new Dissenting bodies — not hostile, like 
the old, but still separate and distinct from the parent 

This result Wesley neither desired nor anticipated. 
His brother Samuel, with a keener foresight than his 
own, detected at the outset the tendency of the move- 
ment, and said in his haste, " they design separation." 
There Samuel was wrong. Separation would happen ; 
separation was latent in the conditions ; but separation 
was nobody's design. Six years later, in his Earnest 
Appeal, John Wesley ridiculed the notion as too pre- 
posterous for mention. " ' But why, then/ say some, 
' do you leave the Church ? ' Leave the Church/ What 
do you mean ? Do we leave so much as the church 
walls? Your own eyes tell you we do not 


You have retailed a sentence from somebody else, 
which you no more understand than he. And no 
marvel ; for it is a true observation, 

' Nonsense is never to be understood.' " 

The Methodist societies, however, were not pure 
Church institutions. Had that been the case, had they 
existed to entrap Dissenters, it is possible that Wesley 
might have been applauded for his Jesuitical aim. 
But he never attempted proselytism. Dissenters were 
free to join the societies ; and, having joined them, were 
free to participate in the services of their chosen sect. 
The core of union was what was, or was believed to be, 
the essence of Christianity. As regards non-essentials, 
the utmost latitude was allowed. The large charity 
was epitomised in Wesley's watchword, " The friends 
of all, the enemies of none." But the Methodists could 
not avoid giving offence. Their motives were miscon- 
strued. Their fraternal sentiments were attributed, 
not to any kindliness of heart, but to a certain quality 
of head, to the unjust possession of brains. This 
might have been accepted as a compliment, but the 
critics did their best, by judicious admixture of blame, 
not to spoil them by flattery. 

A Review of their policy, doctrines, and morals — a 
work already alluded to in these pages — thus contrasts 
Methodist principles with the principles of the Great 
Reformation. " The first thing which strikes an 
observer is the accommodating nature of their prin- 
ciples and conduct. They become all things to all 
men. The Methodists are a singular phenomenon in 
the religious world. They stand up as a particular 
sect, but at the same time receive into their bosom 


people of very different persuasions, all retaining their 
original professions. Their principles are neither 
liberal nor tolerant, and yet people of the most opposite 
sentiments unite in this society. When the Reformers 
broke off from the Church of Rome, and when other 
sectaries revolted from established churches, tbeir first 
step was always to possess their followers with the 
most irreconcilable aversion to the mother churches, 
and, in a stubborn and headstrong humour, to tear 
asunder all the ties that formed the original connection. 
The consequence was the spirit of party broke forth ; 
mutual antipathy took place ; each side became armed 
with hatred and jealousy; and every avenue was 
carefully guarded on either side against all future 
intercourse or connection. 

" Quite different and much more perfect has been 
the policy of the Methodists. It has been dictated by a 
sound head and a cool heart. Hurried on by no violence 
of zeal, they have stolen in upon the prejudices, and, 
without alarming, have insinuated themselves into the 
hearts of mankind. They are taught never to desert 
(at least, nominally) their original profession. They 
frequent the ordinances of their respective original 
societies ; they adhere to all their forms. Hence living 
upon good terms with their former brethren, they 
have a free intercourse and communion with all their 
members. They have an opportunity of insinuating 
themselves into their favour and good graces ; and by 
superior pretensions to religion they have a claim also 
upon their respect. 

" Here then are great advantages in making pro- 
selytes. The Reformers and the sectaries, however 
sincere and honest, certainly acted with too much zeal 


and bitterness to gain followers; but the Methodists 
conduct themselves with all the good management of 
the most able politicians. The hearts of the former 
were too much interested to employ address, whilst the 
latter sap the foundation of their antagonists without 
the declaration of hostilities. By a professed adher- 
ence to original principles, they make the attack 
without creating the suspicion of their design ; and 
hence the new converts become insensibly transformed 
without feeling the shock that an immediate rupture 
would produce. Into this body are collected people of 
all persuasions ; and all their several differences are 
covered over with the broad cloak of Methodism." 

These statements deserve consideration, as the writer, 
with all his ill-will, makes it plain that Wesley was no 
intentional schismatic, that he aimed at uniting, not at 
dividing, Christians. The Methodists, however, are 
credited with more than Machiavelian astuteness. 
Their liberality, it is said, was a ruse. Now, it is a fact 
that Wesley had great talents for organisation, and he 
was assuredly not less acute than his reviewer. Quite 
possibly, therefore, on looking back, he may have seen 
that pacific comprehension had aided in extending 
Methodism. But .the thought did not enter into his 
schemes. Indeed, he expressly disclaimed, both for his 
brother and himself, the ambition of heading a sect. 
They were drawn, he maintained, into that position, 
for which they had no natural inclination, by the 
irresistible current of events. 

" Yet I cannot but remind considerate men in how 
remarkable a manner the wisdom of God has for many 
years guarded against this pretence, with respect to 
my brother and me in particular. Scarce any two 


men in Great Britain, of our rank, have been so held out 
as it were to all the world ; especially of those who from 
their childhood had always loved and studiously sought 
retirement. And I had procured what I sought. I 
was quite safe, as I supposed, in a little country town, 
when I was required to take charge of some young 
gentlemen by Dr. Morley, the only man then in 
England to whom I could deny nothing. From that 
time both my brother and I (utterly against our will) 
came to be more and more observed and known, till we 
were more spoken of than perhaps two so inconsider- 
able persons ever were before in the nation. To make 
us more public still, as honest madmen at least, by a 
strange concurrence of providences, overturning all 
our preceding resolutions, we- were hurried away to 
America. However, at our return from thence, we 
were resolved to retire out of the world at once, being 
sated with noise, hurry, and fatigue, and seeking 
nothing but to be at rest. Indeed, for a long season, 
the greatest pleasure I had desired on this side eternity 
was — 

'Taciturn sylvas inter reptare salubres, 
Quaerentem quidquid dignum sapiente bonoque.' 1 

And we had attained our desire. We wanted nothing. 
We looked for nothing more in this world, when 
we were dragged out again by earnest importunity to 
preach at one place, and another, and another, and 
so carried on, we knew not how, without any design 
but the general one of saving souls, into a situation 
which, had it been named to us at first, would have 
appeared far worse than death " (Farther Appeal). 

l " To glide in silence 'mid the healthful woods, 
Seeking whate'er becomes the good and wise." 


These utterances suggest that Wesley would have 
chosen a life like Wordsworth's, and the entire indif- 
ference they express to the common sources of happiness 
— the very language — necessarily reminds us of the 
sonnets on " Personal Talk," notably the lines : 

"Better than such discourse doth silence long, 
Long barren silence square with my desire ; 
To sit without emotion, hope, or aim, 
In the loud presence of my cottage-fire, 
And listen to the flapping of the flame, 
Or kettle whispering its faint undersong." 

And, again : 

"Wings have we — and as far as we can go, 
We may find pleasure : wilderness and wood, 
Blank ocean and mere sky support that mood 
Which with the lofty sanctifies the low. 
Dreams, books are each a world ; and books we know 
Are a substantial world, both pure and good." 

But Wordsworth was not only a recluse — he was also 
a traveller ; and with this propensity also Wesley 
would have sympathised. During his father's life 
he journeyed between Oxford and Epworth on foot, 
partly for the sake of the exercise, and partly that he 
might have more to bestow in charity. As he preached 
on the Sundays he may be said, even then, to have 
already begun his missionary career. Of his later 
travels in America and Germany it is needless to speak 
further. The habits thus formed may have rendered 
it hard for him to settle down to a stationary exist- 
ence. At any rate, the care of the societies which he 
proceeded to plant all over the United Kingdom left 
him no option but to go to and fro in the earth. His 
life thenceforth was one continual migration. 


If the parochial clergy had shown themselves will- 
ing to co-operate, this vast work of pastoral visitation 
would have been obviated. But, with few exceptions, 
bishops, priests, and deacons persisted in regarding the 
movement as a new and insidious form of Dissent. 
This, as we have seen, was not Wesley's aim ; nor was 
it for many, many years, anything of a fact. He 
drew the bulk of his converts from the teeming 
multitudes who acknowledged neither Church nor 
Dissent; and, except in the case of Dissenters, he 
always encouraged attendance at Church services, 
particularly at Holy Communion. In spite of the 
anonymous critic, the Dissenting element was probably 
at no time very large. At all events, in 1763 Wesley 
could say that most of his adherents were " Church of 
England men." The result of his labours ought there- 
fore to have been an enormous accession of strength, 
both moral and numerical, to the Church of which he 
was a minister. But almost everywhere the use of 
her pulpits was forbidden him ; and Wesley, when not 
actively opposed, was freely ostracised by the estab- 
lished clergy. Under these circumstances, Methodism 
entered on a series of adaptations. 

It may perhaps be remarked that Wesley was hardly 
in a position to assail the clergy for their lack of 
sympathy. In the -first place, the Methodists had 
identified themselves with the Moravians ; and Wesley, 
as a High Church clergyman in Georgia, had shown 
what he thought of the ecclesiastical status of the 
German sectaries by driving from the Lord's Table 
the good and worthy Martin Bolzius. In the second 
place, the Methodist Society had been formed by schism 
from the Moravian fraternity. Wesley was not only a 


doctrinal weathercock, but did not hesitate, when his 
principles and theirs no longer agreed, to turn his back 
on old friends. He could not complain, then, if his 
brethren the clergy followed the same course with him. 

The phrase "Methodist Society" is technically a 
misnomer. Originally, Methodism consisted of a 
number of " societies," which, however, were soon knit 
into a " connexion." Of late years the " connexion " 
has been dignified by the name of the " Wesleyan 
Methodist Church," but Wesley's description of his 
disciples, in their collective capacity, was " the people 
called Methodists." By adopting this style, he tacitly 
protested against the term " Methodist," which had 
been forced upon him from without. At the same 
time he showed, by the colourless and almost colloquial 
word " people," that he considered the Methodist con- 
nexion as neither Church nor Sect. Wider, more 
universal than the Church of England, inasmuch as 
it included Dissenters, it was still not an adverse, but 
a friendly organisation. 

The earliest Methodist society was established, in 
1740, at the chapel in Moorfields. This example was 
followed in the other great centre of the Methodist 
propaganda, Bristol; and it was at Bristol that the 
next important change was carried into operation. 
It seems that some discussion arose regarding the 
pecuniary support of the cause, and it was resolved 
for the sake of convenience to divide the society into 
classes. Persons were appointed to visit the members 
of these classes and collect what was a sort of Peter's 
pence. For Wesley's tax was not exorbitant. A 
penny a week, and a shilling a quarter — that was all. 
A share of the contributions was expended on sick 


members, so that the Methodist class might be con- 
sidered as partaking of the nature of a benefit club. 

The question of finance thus settled, Wesley — whose 
errand was, of course, to save souls — conceived the 
idea of spiritualising these units. It would be a good 
thing, he thought, if the members would meet period- 
ically, for mutual counsel and consolation, under the 
presidency of some devout and intelligent leader. 
The idea was soon translated into practice: and the 
" class-meeting " was, and remains, the most charac- 
teristic product of Methodism. Externally, indeed, 
Methodism owes much of its permanence and stability 
to the class-meeting. Whitefield did not set much store 
by this institution. He considered that preaching was 
his business, and left the pastoral side of Methodism, 
its systematic development, to others. The con- 
sequence is that, even in America, though White- 
field spent many more years in that hemisphere, 
American Methodism bears the impress of Wesley. 

It was nevertheless with no far-reaching intentions 
that Wesley established either societies or classes. 
He thought, not of the generations to come, but of the 
generation in being. He studied how he might best 
conserve the fruits of his ministry, how he might 
restrain his converts from lapsing into indifference, 
infidelity, or vice. It is noticeable that, although he 
lived to hear Whitefield spoken of as a better church- 
man than himself, Wesley rather piqued himself on 
the circumstance that, in thus garnering souls, he was 
reviving a practice of the primitive Church. " Upon 
reflection," he says, " I could not but observe that this 
is the very thing which was from the beginning of 
Christianity. In the earliest times, those whom God 


had sent forth ' preached the gospel to every creature.' 
The body of hearers were mostly either Jews or 
heathens. But as soon as any of these were so con- 
vinced of the truth as to forsake sin and seek the 
gospel of salvation, they immediately joined them 
together, took an account of their names, advised them 
to watch over each other, and met these xutti^ov/jlivoi, 
catechumens, as they were then called, apart from the 
great congregation, that they might instruct, rebuke, 
exhort, and pray with them, and for them, according 
to their several necessities." 

To those who seemed likely not to dishonour the 
society by levity and misconduct, Wesley gave a certi- 
ficate — a ticket. The ticket held good only for three 
months. At the expiration of that term it was 
Wesley's intention to talk with each member and 
ascertain for himself whether he, or she, were worthy 
of a renewal of confidence. With his love of precedent 
and hatred of novelty, Wesley is careful to note that 
these tickets were of the same force as the imarc/.ai 
euoraTixul, " commendatory letters " mentioned by the 
apostle. They were the current coin of Methodist 

Temptations were around, and often they were 
temptations that could not be made known in a mixed 
assembly. To provide for these cases Wesley sub- 
divided the classes into yet smaller groups— married 
or single men ; married or single women. These little 
companies were called bands — " an old English word," 
says Wesley — and the leader was required, after 
making full confession himself, to put to each member 
many searching questions regarding his state, and 
sins, and temptations. 


On one evening in every quarter all the men "in 
band," on another all the women, and on a third men 
and women together met to " eat bread " after the 
fashion of the ancient Christians, in grateful acknow- 
ledgment of God's mercies. " At these love-feasts 
(so we term them, retaining the name as well as the 
thing which was in use from the beginning) our food 
is only a little plain cake and water. But we seldom 
return from them without being fed not only with 
the ' meat which perisheth,' but with ' that which 
endureth to everlasting life.' " 

It is clear that so complex and delicate an organisa- 
tion demanded, in order that it might be permanent, 
something more than quarterly inspection. Wesley 
found on experience that societies, left to themselves, 
were in constant peril of dissolution. " What," he 
asks, " was to be done in a case of so extreme necessity, 
where so many souls lay at stake ? No clergyman 
would assist at all. The expedient that remained was 
to find some one among themselves, who was upright 
of heart, and of sound judgment in the things of God, 
and to desire him to meet the rest as often as he could, 
in order to confirm them, as he was able, in the ways 
of God, either by reading to them, or by prayer, or 
by exhortation." Accordingly, he appointed John 
Cennick to the charge of the society in Kingswood, 
while Thomas Maxfield superintended the interests of 
Methodism in London. 

It is to be remarked that the functions of these 
laymen were confined to the pastoral oversight of each 
flock. They were not supposed — indeed, they were 
supposed not — to preach. Only men who had been 
regularly ordained by episcopal hands were reputed fit 


to be ambassadors, and to preach the gospel of Christ. 
Maxfield, however, installed in the seat of authority, 
took heart of grace, and began, not only to expound, 
but, sans fagon, to preach. There was never much 
difference in principle, and in practice Maxfield's self- 
election was justified by the results. He was able and 
talented, and success crowned his efforts. But the 
step was irregular — it was a breach of discipline; 
and Wesley hastened to London to hold an inquisition 
on the subject. He was more than half -disposed to 
rebuke and restrain the innovator. 

Old Mrs. Wesley was still living and residing near 
the Foundery. When her son called to see her, she 
noticed a cloud of displeasure on his brow, and 
inquired the reason. " Thomas Maxfield," he replied 
abruptly, " has turned preacher, I find." Mrs. Wesley 
regarded him attentively, and said, "John, you know 
what my sentiments have been. You cannot suspect 
me of favouring readily anything of this kind. But 
take care what you do with respect to that young 
man, for he is as surely called of God to preach as 
you are. Examine what have been the fruits of his 
preaching, and hear him also yourself." Wesley fol- 
lowed this candid and dispassionate advice. The 
result was satisfactory ; and the precisian, swallowing 
his prejudice, exclaimed, " It is the Lord ; let Him do 
what seemeth Him good." 

This incident would suggest that to Wesley lay- 
preaching was a new and unpleasant phenomenon, 
but it is a fact that, as early as 1738, Joseph Hum- 
phrys had acted in this capacity with Wesley*fl 
sanction. Probably, therefore, Y/esley may have 
objected to the union of the preacher and the pastoi 


in a layman, as tantamount to the assumption of the 
full ministerial office. Nearly all in Wesley's first set 
of lay-helpers — Humphrys, Maxfield, Cenniek, etc. — 
ended by turning their backs upon him. Writing 
in 1790, he tells us what became of Humphrys. 
" Thursday, 9 [September] I read over the experience 
of Joseph Humphrys, the first lay -preacher that 
assisted me in England, in the year 1738. From his 
own mouth I learn that he was perfected in love, 
and so continued for at least a twelvemonth. After- 
wards he turned Calvinist, and joined Mr. Whitefield, 
and published an invective against my brother and 
me in the newspaper. In a while he renounced Mr. 
Whitefield, and was ordained a Presbyterian. At last 
he received episcopal ordination. He then scoffed at 
inward religion ; and when reminded of his own 
experience, replied, ' That was one of the foolish 
things that I wrote in the time of my madness ! ' " 

This disposition to " rat," though a spice of conscience 
may have gone with it, is not, it must be confessed, an 
agreeable feature in the history of early Methodism. 
Nevertheless, Wesley's choice of Cenniek and Max- 
field as lay -assistants was, as Southey has observed, by 
no means injudicious. The same remark will apply to 
other instances. Amongst the lay-preachers of Method- 
ism — for, naturally, the appointment of three did not 
complete the revolution — were men of original genius, 
of whom Wesley could speak with admiration. " I 
knew a man who was so thoroughly acquainted with 
the Bible that if he was questioned concerning any 
Hebrew word in the Old, or Greek word in the New, 
Testament, he would tell, after a little pause, not only 
how often the one or the other occurred in the Bible, 


but also what it meant in every place. His name was 
Thomas Walsh. Such a master of biblical knowledge 
I never saw before, and never expect to see again." 
More wonderful still were the intellectual powers of 
another of the preachers — John Downes ; and Wesley 
goes into raptures over him. " I suppose he was as 
great a genius as Sir Isaac Newton ; such strength of 
genius has scarce been known in Europe before. I 
will mention but two or three instances of it. When 
he was at school learning algebra, he came one day to 
his master, and said, ' Sir, I can prove this proposition a 
better way than it is proved in the book.' His master 
thought it could not be ; but, upon trial, acknow- 
ledged it to be so. Some time after, his father sent 
him to Newcastle with a clock which was to be mended. 
He observed the clock-maker's tools, and the manner 
how he took it to pieces and put it together again : and 
when he came home, first made himself tools, and then 
made a clock, which went as true as any in the town. 
Another proof of it was this. Thirty years ago, while 
I was shaving, he was whittling the top of a stick. I 
asked, ' What are you doing ? ' He answered, ' I am 
taking your face, which I intend to engrave on a copper- 
plate.' Accordingly, without any instruction, he first 
made himself, and then engraved the plate. The second 
picture which he engraved was that which was prefixed 
to the Notes upon the New Testament. Such another 
instance, I suppose, not all England, or perhaps Europe, 
can produce." 

There appear to have been dullards, too. When 
Wesley was approaching eighty, he fathered a novel — 
Brooke's Fool of Quality — and published it under the 
title of Henry, Earl of Moreland. Those were dif- 


ferent days from the present, when novel-writing is 
a favourite pastime of young preachers. The early 
Methodist thought novel-reading next akin to dancing, 
and believed that people might read, as well as dance, 
themselves into the infernal pit. But Henry, Earl of 
Moreland, was an exception. It was said by Brooke's 
nephew to be founded on fact ; and Wesley commended 
the work, or rather his abridgment, as a " treatise " on 
the sublime. John Easton, preacher, could not admit 
the distinction. He denounced his leader; and that 
led to the following duologue relating to passages in 
the book : — 

Wesley : " Did you read Vindex, John ? " 

Easton : " Yes, sir." 

W. : " Did you laugh, John ? " 


" No, sir." 

" Did you read Damon and Pythias, John ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" Did you cry, John ? " 

" No, sir." 

W. (raising his eyes, and clasping his hands) : " O 
earth, earth, earth ! " 

On June 25, 1744, and the five following days, was 
held at the Foundery, in London, the first of a long 
series of Conferences. It was attended by John and 
Charles Wesley and ' by four other clergymen — John 
Hodges, Henry Piers, Samuel Taylor, and John Meriton. 
There were present also four lay-preachers. Three of 
them — Thomas Maxfield, John Bennet, and John 
Downes — have already been introduced to the reader. 
The fourth was Thomas Richards. The proceedings 
included a solemn affirmation of loyalty to the Church 
of England, and of submission to her rulers. The Con- 


ference, among other matters, took into consideration 
the status, duties, and limitations of the lay-assistants. 
One resolution was not flattering to the order, since it 
declared that they were allowable only in cases of 
necessity. As the laymen consented to be known as 
necessary evils, they must be judged to have possessed, 
at least, the grace of humility. But Wesley evidently 
regarded his laymen as in statu pupillari. He feared 
that they might make him ridiculous by their indis- 
cretions. Accordingly, he broached for their guidance 
a code of rules of exemplary strictness. They were to 
be serious, and converse sparingly and cautiously witli 
women. They were to take no steps towards marriage 
without first acquainting Wesley or his brother clergy- 
men. They were to do nothing as gentlemen. They 
had no more to do with this character than with that 
of a dancing-master. They were not to be ashamed of 
fetching wood and drawing water ; nor of cleaning 
their own shoes or those of their neighbour. They 
were to take no money of anyone, and were to contract 
no debts without Wesley's knowledge. They were not 
to mend the rules, but to observe them. They were to 
employ their time as Wesley directed ; and for his satis- 
faction, as well as for their own profit, they were to 
keep journals. 

Wesley's pupils at Lincoln, as well as the members 
of the Holy Club, had already tasted his love of dis- 
cipline. The stringency of these regulations, therefore, 
no doubt reflected the character of the man. A further 
explanation lay in the novelty of the institution. The 
Methodist preacher, itinerant or local, is still, in dif- 
ferent ways, practically unique. In the mid-eighteenth 
century he was a stupendous experiment. The Church 


of England recruited its ranks from the universities 
and other foundations of sound and religious learning. 
Presbyterian ministers, though not of the same social 
standing, were not inferior in education. Even Dissent 
had its academies. But Wesley's preachers, like Wiclif 's 
" poor priests," were for the most part ignorant men of 
humble position. As Eowland Hill saw fit to ridicule 
Wesley's " ragged legion of preaching barbers, cobblers, 
tinkers, scavengers, draymen, and chimney-sweepers," 1 
it was asking too much of unregenerate human nature 
to claim that it should refrain from " chaffing" the 
new race of preachers. And of succulent satire there 
was no stint. 

"The bricklayer lays his trowel by, 
And now builds mansions in the sky ; 
The cobbler, touched with holy pride, 
Flings his old shoes and lasts aside, 
And now devoutly sets about 
Cobbling of souls that ne'er wear out. 
The baker, now a preacher grown, 
Finds man lives not by bread alone, 
And now his customer he feeds 
With prayers, with sermons, groans, and creeds. 

1 It would be a mistake to see in disciplined Methodism a religious 
parallel to the anarchy of the Puritan epoch, but the professional pride 
of Rowland Hill may certainly be justified by the example of Dr. South. 
In one of his sermons he says: "For truth scorns to be seen by eyes 
too much fixed upon inferior objects. It lies too deep to be pitched up 
with the plough, and too close to be beaten out with the hammer. It 
dwells not in shops or workhouses ; nor, till the last age, was it ever 
known that any served seven years to a smith or tailor, that he might, 
at the end thereof, proceed Master of Arts, but such as those trades 
taught him ; and much less, that he should commence Doctor- or Divine 
from the shopboard or the anvil, or, from whistling to a team, come to 
preaching to a congregation. These were the peculiar, extraordinary 
privileges of the late blessed times of light and inspiration." 


Weavers, inspired, their shuttles leave, 
Sermons and flimsy hymns to weave. 
Barbers unreaped will leave the chin, 
To trim and shave the man within. 
The gardener, weary of his trade, 
Tired of the mattock and the spade, 
Changed to Apollo in a trice, 
Waters the plants of paradise. 
The fishermen no longer set 
For fish the meshes of their net ; 
But catch, like Peter, men of sin, 
For catching is to take them in." 

Having once adopted the principle of lay-preaching, 
and stipulated that his preachers should not aspire to 
the character of gentlemen, 1 Wesley concerned himself 
far less about their secular callings than about their 
moral and spiritual fitness. That some of his preachers 
were persons of more than respectable ability has 
been already shown. Their sincerity might almost be 
assumed. They had few or no worldly incentives, and 
the persecution was terrible. In the majority of cases 
the double test was, it can hardly be questioned, effi- 
cacious. There was, however, one remarkable excep- 
tion. At Norwich James Wheatley waged an unequal 

1 Although Wesley disclaimed for his lay-helpers, and wished them 
to disclaim for themselves, the character of a gentleman — i.e. a man of 
position — it seems, on the impartial testimony of the Spectator, that his 
influence has tended to imbue his preachers with the more pleasing traits 
of the class in question. That journal, on July 15, 1899, contained the 
following remarks : ' ' Wesley was always a scholar and a gentleman ; 
and the results of those characteristics may be traced to this day — even 
in his humblest followers. One of tho most perfect examples of a true 
gentleman that the present writer has ever known was a miner, who 
was a Methodist local preacher. In him, as in so many of his colleagues 
scattered up and down England, a certain gentle grace and spiritual 
refinement seemed part of his ' profession.' " 


fight with the Hell-fire Club. He was stripped, and 
dragged to one of the bridges to be drowned, and per- 
haps would have been drowned but for the appearance 
of the mayor. At another time the blasphemous 
Jacobites formed a plan for suffocating him in a mud 
pit ten or twelve feet deep. Nevertheless, it was proved 
to Wesley's satisfaction, and to the satisfaction of the 
ecclesiastical court at Norwich, that James Wheatley, 
arrant hypocrite, was unconscionably immoral. The 
judge decreed that " the said Wheatley be enjoined a 
public penance, to be performed in a linen cloth, with a 
paper pinned to his breast, denoting his crime " ; and 
Wesley, who had before suspected him, expelled him 
from his fellowship. 

It was said of Wesley's preachers, after Methodism 
had been fifty years in existence, that they lived like 
stalled oxen. This was probably, even then, a wilful 
exaggeration, as the nature of their employment pre- 
cluded habits of luxury. Anyhow, such an assertion 
could not have been made of the early preachers, 
whose lives were simple, hardy, and full of toil and 
adventure. The Methodist pioneers were of three 
sorts, rudely corresponding to Volunteers, Militia, and 
Regular Army. Some continued to follow their trade 
or profession, preaching in their town or village and 
occasionally farther afield. Others went about preach- 
ing for a longer or shorter time, and then resumed 
their places in ordinary civil occupations. A third 
class embraced preaching as a vocation. These under- 
went a period of probation ; submitted to an examina- 
tion of character and ability; and, finally, at the 
annual conference were admitted, with solemn prayer, 
into "full connexion." The triple division, never 


exactly authorised, was not to last. In the eventual 
organisation Wesley's assistants were known either as 
" travelling " or " local " preachers. 

The "travelling" preachers were about equal to 
Dissenting ministers — their financial prospects, gloomy 
and uncertain. They received no stipend, and, going 
forth without purse or scrip, in the ardour of faith, 
took no thought what they should eat, or what they 
should drink, or wherewithal they should be clothed. 
Journeying in this spirit, the preachers fared not 
utterly amiss. The societies, if they were not very 
rich, were liberal, and knew how to appreciate 
the self-denial of prophets and evangelists. It was 
otherwise with their wives and children who, in the 
absence of the breadwinner, ran a risk of destitution ; 
and, to shield their families from want, not a few 
Methodist preachers ceased itinerating to become 
pastors of Independent churches. This failure of the 
commissariat offers a striking contrast to the arrange- 
ments afterwards introduced. In no other community 
or profession is marriage so easy or so safe as among 
Methodist ministers ; and the cares inseparable from a 
growing family are sensibly lightened by an automatic 
increase of salary. 

In proportion to density of membership, the sphere 
of labour tended to contract. There is in this respect 
a curious analogy between the early days of Method- 
ism and the early days of the Government inspection 
of schools. The late Mr. Matthew Arnold accepted the 
office of inspector, in order to marry ; but his wedded 
life was at first by no means of the normal description. 
The area assigned to him was so large that the devoted 
pair shifted from place to place in uncomfortable gipsy 


fashion. Some notion of the hardships and difficulties 
that beset the early "travelling" preacher may be 
gleaned from a despatch written by one of the van- 
guard to the commander-in-chief. "Many doors are 
opened for preaching in these parts, but cannot be 
supplied for want of preachers. I think someone 
should be sent to assist me, otherwise we shall lose 
ground. My circuit requires me to travel one hundred 
and fifty miles in two weeks, during which time I 
preach publicly thirty-four times, besides meeting the 
societies, visiting the sick, and transacting other 

From this statement it will be remarked that a 
number of societies were under the control of a single 
" travelling " preacher. He was the " superintendent " 
of the " circuit," so long as Wesley chose that he should 
move within the specified limits. A period of three 
years was afterwards settled on as the term beyond 
which no itinerant could retain the same appointment ; 
but the Bible Christians, a minor Methodist body, are 
less rigorous than the parent community, which, how- 
ever, has latterly manifested a disposition to relax the 
severity of the triennial change of circuits. 

It is greatly to Wesley's credit that he always 
courageously faced the often heavy responsibilities 
involved in his new arrangements. When he sent his 
preachers hither and thither opening fresh centres of 
evangelistic enterprise, he did not forget that they had 
wives, on whom now devolved, if not the maintenance, 
at any rate the training and education of their children. 
This was not quite equitable, if it could be prevented ; 
and Wesley resolved that it should be prevented — 
that Methodism should not be built up at the cost of 


virtual widows and neglected offspring. In 1740 he 
had opened a school at Kingswood for the children of 
colliers. Eight years later he founded in the same 
place a new school for the children of his travelling 
preachers and other Methodists, who shared his objec- 
tions to existing boarding-schools. 

The institution was a strange medley of wisdom and 
folly. One feature with which Wesley found fault 
in the boarding-schools of the period was their situa- 
tion in the midst of towns. This was a sound criticism, 
nor, in some respects, was Kingswood a bad choice for 
a public school. It was " private, remote from all high 
roads, on a small hill sloping to the west, sheltered 
from the east and north, and affording room for large 
gardens." But the situation had one defect, which 
ought to have been fatal. There was no sufficient 
supply of pure water. Wesley, however, was deter- 
mined to plant his school there, and turned a deaf ear 
to the remonstrances of more practical friends. Vincent 
Perronet wrote to Walter Sellon : " My dear brother 
John Wesley wonders at the bad taste of those who 
seem not to be in raptures with Kingswood school. 
Tf there were no other objections but the want of good 
water upon the spot, this would be insuperable to all 
wise men, except himself and his brother Charles." 

Wesley, it seems, had read Milton's treatise on 
Education, and, partly in consequence, had become an 
educational theorist of a whimsical and fantastic kind. 
Unhappily, he had the means of applying his theories, 
and a " corpus vile " on which to make an " experi- 
mentum crucis " in the persons of the preachers' boys. 
It is fair to remember, however, that Wesley warned 
tender parents — who, he rather needlessly adds, offered 


their sons and daughters to devils — against sending 
their children to a school which, in the rigour of its 
discipline, was to be more than monastic. The pupils 
were to rise at four, and spend one hour in private 
reading, singing, meditation, and prayer. From the 
age of six to twelve they were to be exercised in read- 
ing, writing, arithmetic, English, French, Latin, Greek, 
Hebrew, history, geography, chronology, rhetoric, 
logic, geometry, algebra, physics, and music. There 
were to be no hours for recreation, and no holidays ; 
and a master was to be always in attendance. Wesley's 
explanation of this harshness was that those who played 
when they were boys would play when they were men. 

The bare announcement of such a programme would, 
in these days, be enough to ensure the failure of the 
undertaking. In the eighteenth century, when the 
rights of boys were less understood and respected, it 
appears to have had the opposite effect. We hear of 
scholars from Denmark, scholars from Scandinavia, 
scholars from the West Indies, and even of 'parlour 
boarders. Still, after thirty -five years, the school 
could not be declared a success. It had realised none 
of Wesley's, certainly extravagant, expectations. 

"My design," he says ; "in building the house at 
Kingswood was to have therein a Christian family, 
every member whereof (children excepted) should be 
alive to God, and a pattern of all holiness. Here it 
was that I proposed to educate a few children, accord- 
ing to the accuracy of the Christian model. And 
almost as soon as we began, God gave us a token for 
good, four of the children receiving a clear sense of 
pardon. But, at present, the school does not, in any 
wise, answer the design of its institution, either with 


regard to religion or learning. The children are not 
religious ; they have not the power and hardly the 
form of religion. Neither do they improve in learning 
better than at other schools ; no, nor yet so well. 
Insomuch, that some of our friends have been obliged 
to remove their children to other schools. And no 
wonder that they improve so little either in religion 
or learning; for the rules of the school are not ob- 
served at all. All in the house ought to rise, take 
their three meals, and go to bed at a fixed hour. But 
they do not. The children ought never to be alone, 
but always in the presence of a master. This is totally 
neglected, in consequence of which they run up and 
down the wood, and mix — yea, fight — with the colliers' 
children. They ought never to play, but they do 
every day — yea, in the school. Three maids are suffi- 
cient. Now there are four, and but one, at most, truly 

" How may these evils be remedied, and the school 
reduced to its original plan? It must be mended or 
ended, for no school is better than the present school 
Can any be a master that does not rise at five, observe 
all the rules, and see that others observe them ? There 
should be three masters and an usher, chiefly to be with 
the children out of school. The headmaster should 
have nothing to do with temporal things." 

Adam Clarke, the celebrated commentator, who was 
educated at Kingswood, tells a still more tragic tale of 
chaos and corruption. " The school was the worst I 
had ever seen, though the teachers were men of ade- 
quate learning. It was perfectly disorganised ; and in 
several respects, each did what was right in his own 
eyes. There was no efficient plan pursued. They 


mocked at religion, and trampled under foot all the 
laws. The little children of the preachers suffered 
great indignities ; and, it is to be feared, their treat- 
ment there gave many of them a rooted enmity against 
religion for life. The parlour boarders had every kind 
of respect paid to them, and the others were shame- 
fully neglected. Scarcely any care was taken either 
of their bodies or their souls. ... At the table 
every person when he drank was obliged to run 
the following gauntlet : He must drink the health of 
Mr. Simpson, Mrs. Simpson, Miss Simpson, Mr. Bailey, 
Mr. De Boudry, all the foreign gentlemen, then all the 
parlour boarders, down one side of the long table and 
up the other, one by one, and all the visitors who 
might happen to be there; after which it was lawful 
for him to drink his glass of beer." 

Evidently, it was a bad fault to be a preacher's son. 
By a vigorous effort Wesley succeeded in somewhat 
reforming the school, but it was established on false 
principles, and whilst they remained in vogue, it was 
idle to anticipate any lasting or genuine improvement. 

In classifying the various springs of Methodist 
brotherhood — or, viewing the matter from another 
standpoint, of the new Dissent — it is natural to place 
in the first category the influence of a distinctive 
psalmody. Germany stands pre - eminent as the 
home of the sacred lyric. When Luther trolled forth 
" Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott," the rugged but heroic 
strain awoke mighty echoes against which Rome's 
plain-song had never a chance. It will not have been 
forgotten how the Moravians sang, and Wesley listened, 
during the storm-scene on the Atlantic. Probably, 
his later intercourse with that community forced this 


element of their worship more and more prominently 
before his notice. Again, when the Kingswood colliers 
had been converted, they excited some scandal in the 
neighbourhood, and some perplexity in Wesley's not 
illiberal mind, by their vigorous psalm -singing pro- 
tracted far into the night. In the third place, the 
Wesleys, as a family, had a strong bent for poetry 
and undoubted talent for versification, while John 
and Charles Wesley were the devout leaders of a great 
popular movement. The inevitable outcome of these 
circumstances was a Methodist hymn-book, edited by 
the brothers, with a large infusion of original composi- 

Harbinger of a more important and more definitive 
compilation, there appeared, in 1739, a work entitled 
Hymns and Sacred Poems. To this volume John 
Wesley contributed at any rate twenty translations 
of German hymns, and Charles a number of his 
own pieces. It is believed that, in works published 
under their joint names, all translations from the 
German emanated from John Wesley. His niece, 
Miss Wesley, gave it as her opinion — it is hard to fix 
the value of her opinion — that to him and not to her 
father, who was by no means so conversant with the 
language, was this credit due. 

Still, the poet of the movement, the " sweet singer " 
of Methodism, was, there is no gainsaying, Charles 
Wesley. John might be — he was — a competent trans- 
lator, a correct and elegant verse-writer. But Charles 
was more ; he had flaming in him something of the 
true poetic fire. Himself familiar with the varied 
phases of Methodist experience, he could describe 
with equal truth and equal sympathy the feelings of 


a weeping sinner and a rejoicing saint; and all the 
intermediate emotions were to him as A B C. 
Methodism John Wesley defined as religion of the 
heart. Charles gave to the Methodist people a trans- 
fused and transfigured theology, theology rememberable 
as verse. Not didactic verse, though didaxis was in it, 
but verse that was passionate — perhaps too passionate. 

There has been much unintelligent talk as to the 
nature and attributes of hymns. Dr. Johnson laid 
down that hymns — i.e. metrical compositions intended 
to be sung by Christian congregations — could not 
be poetry, because it was necessary to exclude the 
element of " invention." No doubt a hymn-writer 
labours under severe restrictions. The subject-matter 
is given ; it cannot be handled capriciously. It is 
either Kevelation or connected with Kevelation. 
Furthermore, the hymn-writer represents a church, 
a school of thought, a system of belief. He must 
show himself orthodox. But his orthodoxy must not 
be too strait, too pronounced, for then he will 
offend men of other churches, other schools of thought, 
other systems of belief. The doctrines taught or 
assumed will be spurned. The terminology will seem 
strange and uncouth. On this account many of 
Wesley's hymns will never be popular, will never be 
felt as poetry, will barely be understood, beyond the 
pale of Methodism, or, at the widest, of Evangelical 

Dr. Johnson, however, referred to other considera- 
tions besides the invariable subject-matter. He was 
thinking of the artistic, the decorative, the sipectacvlwr 
side of poetry. Hymns, to be good, must do with- 
out those effects that make the most of novelty, that 


pin attention to the manner, that impress you with 
the skill of the writer rather than the importance 
of his theme. Hymns may not be self-conscious. 
Figures of speech are to be introduced sparingly, 
and, as it were, reluctantly. If drawn from nature, 
they must be exceedingly simple ; but commonly they 
will be more effective, if borrowed from the Sacred 
Writings. In the great hymns — the hymns that have 
swayed multitudes and will live for ever — the meta- 
phor is the central — what is formally often the initial 
■ — idea. Set comparisons and illustrations are for the 
understanding. A good hymn kindles the emotions, 
touches and softens the heart. 

It is said that in 1740 Charles Wesley was seated in 
his study when a small bird entered, pursued by a 
hawk. This was the origin of the hymn, " Jesu, 
Lover of my soul," which, with Toplady's " Rock of 
Ages," stands supreme, at the very apex of English 
hymnody. If a Greek poet had been thus inspired, he 
would have begun, " Just as a dove, pursued by a cruel 
hawk, flees to the bosom of a friendly man " ; but 
Wesley, once thrilled, thinks no more of the little 
bird and its fierce enemy. Inspiration sweeps him 
along from type to antitype. The feelings, still fresh, 
are committed to paper; and many profoundly 
ignorant of the occasion have entered with full 
sympathy into the mood it created. 

Mr. Gladstone did not think highly of Charles 
Wesley's reverie. For him it was a medley ; it was 
not poetically one. 1 But it is safe to affirm that 
nobody ever wrote a good hymn, resolving to obey the 

1 The same objection might be urged to that touching funeral hymn, 
"Now the labourer's task is o'er." 


rules of poetical art. A really successful hymn is 
more the result of chance than almost any other form 
of literary production. Some of Wesley's lay-preachers 
had, not quite the knack, but the coy and occasional 
luck of turning out such a specimen. One of the 
earliest was a Thomas Bakewell, who not only wrote 
a hymn, but lived to the venerable age of ninety- 
eight. His hymn is well known, being indeed that 
melodious " song of praise," of which the first stanza 
is as follows : 

" Hail, Thou once despised Jesus 1 

Hail, Thou Galilean King! 
Thou didst suffer to release us ; 

Thou didst full salvation bring. 
Hail, Thou agonising Saviour, 

Bearer of our sin and shame ! 
By Thy merits we find favour ; 

Life is given through Thy name." 

Bakewell had a friend, Thomas Olivers, who likewise 
achieved the writing of a master-hymn. It seems 
that, during a visit to Bakewell's house at West- 
minster, Olivers found his way into the synagogue of 
the Jews. There he heard Signor Leoni declaim a 
celebrated air. Olivers coveted that air for his own 
people. On his return he sat down, and choosing the 
requisite metre, proceeded to indite a " song of praise " 
loftier, more austere than Bakewell's, which, for 
strength and sublimity, for striking phrase and pro- 
found conviction, reminds you of Isaiah and the 
prophets. It begins: 

"The God of Abraham praise, 
Who reigns enthroned above, 
Ancient of Everlasting Days, 
And God of Love : 


Jehovah, Great I Am, 
By earth and heaven confest ; 
I bow, and bless the sacred Name, 
For ever blest." 

James Montgomery, no mean judge, has said of this 
hymn, " There is not in our language a lyric of more 
majestic style, more elevated or more glorious imagery. 
Its structure indeed is unattractive on account of the 
short lines, but, like a stately pile of architecture, 
severe and simple in design, it strikes less on the first 
view than after deliberate examination." 

Montgomery's allusion to metre suggests what is a 
serious fault in many of Charles Wesley's composi- 
tions — namely, an unsuitable, and it is hardly an 
exaggeration to say absurd, rhythm. The lilt of those 
frolicsome anapaests is impossible out of comedy. How 
they came to be employed is a little mysterious. Not 
improbably, however, the hymns were written as 
libretto, to fit particular tunes. If another criticism 
may be permitted, it is that many of Charles Wesley's 
hymns are better adapted for private devotional study 
than for public worship. They are concerned with 
the fears and the failings, the hopes and the aspira- 
tions of the individual. No doubt congregations are 
made up of individuals, but the individuals that make 
up congregations are not Wesleys, and it is undesirable 
that they should be asked to express, as I or Trie, what 
they probably do not feel and may not sympathise 
with. Introspection, however, was the essence of 

Charles Wesley's hymns are not all of equal merit 
— a thing scarcely to be expected, seeing that at one 
period there were in circulation more than six thousand 


of them. Mr. Swinburne has said that much that 
Wordsworth wrote was rubbish; and Dean Stanley 
inclined to a similar view of Wesley's verse. John 
Wesley, however, was firmly convinced of the excel- 
lence of his brother's best work. In the preface of 
the general definitive hymn-book, published in 1780, 
he writes with even more than his customary vigour 
and confidence : " Many gentlemen have done my 
brother and me (though without naming us) the 
honour to reprint many of our hymns. Now they 
are perfectly welcome so to do, provided they print 
them just as they are. But I desire they would not 
attempt to mend them ; for they really are not able. 
None of them is able to mend either the sense or the 
verse. Therefore, I must beg of them one of these 
two favours : either to let them stand just as they are, 
to take them for better for worse ; or to add the 
true reading in the margin, or at the bottom of the 
page ; that we may be no longer accountable either for 
the nonsense or for the doggerel of other men." 

Even more emphatic, and less equivocally generous, 
is a passage in the very last number of John Wesley's 
Jowrnal. It is to the following effect : — 

" I retired to Peckham ; and at leisure hours read 
part of a very pretty trifle — the Life of Mrs. 
Bellamy. Surely never did any, since John Dryden, 
study more 

'To make vice pleasing and damnation shine,' 

than this lively and elegant writer. She has a fine 
imagination ; a strong understanding ; an easy style, 
improved by much reading ; a fine, benevolent temper ; 
and every qualification that could consist with a total 


ignorance of God. But God was not in all her thoughts. 
Abundance of anecdotes she inserts, which may be 
true or false. One of them, concerning Mr. Garrick, is 
curious. She says : ' When he was taking ship for 
England, a lady presented him with a parcel, which 
she desired him not to open till he was at sea. When 
he did, he found Wesley's hymns, which he immediately 
threw overboard.' I cannot believe it. I think Mr. G. 
had more sense. He knew my brother well, and 
knew him to be not only far superior in learning, but 
in poetry, to Mr. Thomson and all his theatrical writers 
put together. None of them can equal him, either 
in strong, nervous sense or purity and elegance of 
language. The musical compositions of his sons are not 
more excellent than the poetical ones of their father." 

Is it conceivable that the Wesleys, if they had not 
been Methodist preachers, would have forestalled the 
Lake school ? A contributor to the Spectator (July 15, 
1899), in the course of a brilliant article describing 
Wesley's services to England, observes : " We doubt 
if what the Germans call the Weltanschauung of a 
nation was ever so rapidly transformed as was that 
of England in the last century. Think of the change 
from the aridity of the Deistic controversy and the 
hollow brilliancy of Bolingbroke and Chesterfield 
to the green pastures and still waters of the ' Lyrical 
Ballads,' and ask yourself what could have wrought 
such a marvellous resurrection from the dead. We 
cannot perhaps explain this, for the spirit, in the last 
analysis, moveth where it listeth, but we do see 
that the new literature and thought sprang from a 
new soil, watered by a new faith which once more 
saw the world to be divine, and men to be vitally 


related in social bonds forged by God Himself. We do 
not suppose that the zealous converts of Methodism 
and the earnest preachers of the Evangelical revival 
could appreciate the fairy loveliness of the poetry 
of Coleridge or the bare grandeur of Wordsworth's 
noble sonnets. But we do say that each shared the 
new life, that each had passed from the desert of 
mechanism and formality into the promised land of 
freedom and truth." 

It appears probable that, if John and Charles Wesley 
had thrown themselves into pure literature — as they 
might, perhaps, have done but for the attractions 
of theology — they would have instituted a reform, but 
that reform would hardly have shaped itself as 
pantheism or Nature-worship. Most likely its note 
would have been enthusiasm for humanity. John 
Wesley, at least, seems to have thought scorn of the 
pleasures of the country. Under the date of Novem- 
ber 5, 1766, he pens the following reflections : " In the 
little journeys I have taken lately, I have thought 
much on the huge encomiums which have been for 
many ages bestowed on a country life. How have all 
the learned world cried out — 

' fortunati mmium, sua si bona norint, agricolse ! ' 1 

But, after all, what, a flat contradiction is this to 
universal experience ! See that little house, under the 
wood, by the riverside ! There is rural life in perfec- 
tion. How happy then is the farmer that lives there ! 
Let us take a detail of his happiness. He rises with 
(or before) the sun, calls his servants, looks to his 
swine and cows, then to his stables and barns. He 
1 "Too happy husbandmen, if they knew their blessings!" 


sees to the ploughing and sowing his ground, in 
winter or in spring. In summer and autumn he 
hurries and sweats among his mowers and reapers. 
And where is his happiness in the meantime ? Which 
of these employments do we envy ? Or do we envy 
the delicate repast that succeeds, which the poet so 
languishes for? 

' quando faba, Pythagorae cognata, simulque 
Uncta satis pingui ponentur oluscula lardo ! ' 

'O the happiness of eating beans well greased with 
fat bacon ! Nay, and cabbage too ! ' Was Horace 
in his senses when he talked thus, or the servile herd 
of his imitators ? Our eyes and ears may convince us 
that there is not a less happy body of men in all 
England than the country farmers. In general their 
life is supremely dull ; and it is usually unhappy too. 
For of all people in the kingdom they are the most 
discontented ; seldom satisfied either with God or 

The tone of this criticism resembles that of the 
Edinburgh Reviewer's chilling strictures on Words- 
worth's first independent volume of poems. Relatively, 
however, to his own want of sympathy with Horace, 
Wesley might have given intellectual assent to the 

lines — 

" But there's a tree, of many one, 
A single field that I have look'd upon, 
Both of them speak of something that is gone : 
The pansy at my feet 
Doth the same tale repeat: 
Whither is fled the visionary gleam? 
Where is it now, the glory and the dream ? " 

Intimately associated with hymns are hymn-tunes. 


On this subject Wesley advised his preachers as 
follows : " Suit the tune to the words. Avoid complex 
tunes, which it is scarcely possible to sing with 
devotion. Repeating the same words so often, 
especially while another repeats different words, 
shocks all common sense, necessarily brings in dead 
formality, and has no more religion in it than a 
Lancashire hornpipe. Sing no anthems. Do not 
suffer the people to sing too slow. In every society 
let them learn to sing ; and let them always learn our 
own tunes first. Let the women constantly sing their 
parts alone. Let no man sing with them, unless he 
understands the notes and sings the bass, as it is 
pricked down in the book. Introduce no new tunes 
till they are perfect in the old. Let no organ be 
placed anywhere till proposed in the Conference. 
Recommend own tune-book everywhere; and if you 
cannot sing yourself, choose a person or two in each 
place to pitch the tune for you. Exhort everyone in 
the congregation to sing, not one in ten only." 

It was foolish of Wesley so persistently to deprecate 
and depreciate anthems, but his general notions about 
congregational singing are perfectly sound and in 
accord with the now universal practice. The old 
Methodist psalmody, despite Wesley's protests, was of 
a very flamboyant eharacter, lines being iterated and 
reiterated till the non-musical listeners must have 
writhed in their seats. 

For the first forty years of its existence Methodism 
was, so to speak, amphibious. Formally, it had many 
of the notes of Dissent. It had its own legislature, 
its own meeting-houses (too many, in the opinion of 
the Conference of 1783), its own schools, its own 


hymn-book, and, of course, its own preachers. With 
all of these the heads of the English Church had 
nothing to do. The moving spirit of the whole com- 
plex organisation was John Wesley. But John Wesley 
professed himself an attached member of the Church 
of England, and, under disheartening conditions, 
endeavoured to persuade his followers — those who were 
not Dissenters — to conform to her rites and ceremonies. 
At this stage the Methodist society has somewhat the 
aspect of an association for the abolition of Dissent. 
Whereas the old Dissenting bodies — Presbyterians, 
Baptists, Independents — were in a condition of stagna- 
tion and decay, Methodism had all the qualities — 
notably, an immense vitality — calculated to attract 
temperaments which had heretofore found a con- 
genial home in Dissent. As Methodist, a man might 
be at the same time Churchman and Dissenter ; and if 
only the bishops had countenanced the new institu- 
tions — entering into a sort of honourable conspiracy 
with Wesley — Methodism would have formed a bridge 
from Dissent to Church, such as would have delighted 
Tillotson and other advocates of comprehension. 

But it was not to be. So far from Dissent being 
annexed by the Church of England, Methodism was 
annexed by Dissent, and that virtually in Wesley's 
day and by Wesley's act. The final development waa 
initiated by events connected with the American 
Revolution. Wesleyan Methodism, as distinct from 
Whitefield's variety, had been introduced into the 
southern provinces, as well as into the newly- 
conquered province of Canada, by lay-agents — into 
Canada, fitly enough, by officers of the British army. 
On the outbreak of the rebellion Wesley, very unwisely 


and in opposition to his brother's advice, turned 
politician. He had always been a strong Tory — 
indeed, loyalty was, as he said, a part of his religion. 
In spite of that, he was at first inclined to side with 
the colonists, and wrote a long letter to the British 
Prime Minister, warning him of the risks to which he 
was committing the nation. This was no doubt a very 
wise document, if it was wise to handle politics at all ; 
but in a few months the amateur statesman turned his 
back upon himself. The volte face was complete. The 
fact was that Wesley, though a veteran in divinity, was 
a tyro in the conduct of affairs, and, as has been said, he 
was a sturdy and honest Tory. Dr. Johnson, a brother 
Tory, engaged Wesley in conversation, and the lexico- 
grapher found little difficulty in persuading him that 
his views were erroneous. Johnson's own views were 
the reverse of moderate. " Sir," said he, " they are a 
race of convicts, and ought to be thankful for anything 
we allow them short of hanging." That was exactly 
the attitude of Lord North, and, in a treatise entitled 
" Taxation no Tyranny," Johnson attempted to justify 
it. His arguments were reproduced in an abridgment 
called " A Calm Address to the American People," of 
which John Wesley announced himself as the author. 
This calm address provoked a tremendous storm on 
both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and by many Wesley 
was held to have fully established his character of 

Notwithstanding the grave impolicy of this course, 
Methodism grew and prospered in America. During 
the ten years' struggle the membership rose from two 
to fifteen thousand. The strength of the Church of 
England proportionately declined. At the close of the 


war it was on the verge of collapse. Many parishes 
were without a clergyman, and there were no bishops. 
There never had been bishops. Government had been 
adjured to send out a bishop, but, whether from policy 
or from sheer neglect, the demand had been ignored. 

American Methodists were in a dilemma. Were the 
sacraments never to be administered, or were they to 
be administered by uncanonical persons ? The latter 
solution commended itself to some minds, and, as a 
consequence, the duty was undertaken by certain of 
the preachers. Wesley's representative in America, 
Francis Asbury, did not approve of the practice, and 
in an explanatory letter suggested that Wesley himself 
should favour them with a visit. At the age of eighty, 
the Methodist leader could not think of accepting the 
invitation, but he adopted another hint of Asbury 's. 
In a secret conclave at Bristol, he ordained three of 
his preachers — Coke, Whatcoat, and Vasey — and sent 
them to the United States. 

As a simple priest, Wesley had, of course, no busi- 
ness to ordain anyone, but the ordination of Dr. Coke 
had a special significance, and Wesley cannot be 
absolved from the charge of disingenuousness in his 
method of apology. Coke was already in priest's 
orders ; why, then, should he submit to a second, and 
apparently superfluous, performance of the rite ? The 
answer is that Coke was to go out as superintendent, 
and, on arriving, to exercise co-ordinate authority with 
Asbury. But Coke had not been long in America 
before his colleague and himself adopted the style of 
bishops — bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church. 
This was no doubt contrary to Wesley's desire. He 
did not object to the thing, but he greatly disliked the 


name — that is, when assumed by his followers. 
Addressing Asbury, he writes: "How can you, how 
dare you, suffer yourself to be called bishop ? I 
shudder, I start at the very thought ! Men may call 
me a knave or a fool, a rascal, a scoundrel, and I am 
content ; but they shall never by my consent call me 
bishop. For my sake, for God's sake, for Christ's sake, 
put a full end to this ! " 

Wesley, however, was ready to act as bishop. After 
a while, he ordained ministers for Scotland, alleging in 
excuse that the Church of England had no jurisdiction 
in that country. This was true enough. The Scots 
execrated the English liturgy even under Methodist 
patronage. "I dunno ken what ye mean by these 
unco inventions," they said. " We belong to the gude 
old Kirk of Scotland, and will not join with the Whore 
of Babylon at all." 

This conduct of Wesley in ordaining men, though 
it was wholly inconsistent with his position as an 
Anglican priest (in respect of which it was, indeed, 
nothing less than a monstrous breach of discipline), 
was not inconsistent with his view, expounded forty 
years before, of Christian orders. When he boasted 
himself a high churchman and the son of a high 
churchman, he used the term mainly in a political 
sense. He alluded to the divine right of kings, to the 
duty of passive obedience. Doubtless he attached 
much importance to the sacraments. But he did not 
believe that as between bishop and presbyter there was 
any original or essential difference. Neither did he 
believe in the apostolic succession. He said : " I firmly 
believe I am a scriptural kiri<sx.o*os as much as any man 
in England or in Europe; for the uninterrupted 


succession I know to be a fable, which no man ever 
did or can prove." If he had not before exercised the 
right which, as he thought, God had given him, it was 
because he had deemed such exercise not expedient. 
He deemed it expedient now. 

The ordinations at Bristol were carried out without 
reference to Charles Wesley, though he was within 
call, and would naturally have expected to be con- 
sulted. Informed of what had occurred, he wrote 
to John, articulating the nature of the occurrence. 
Lord Mansfield had said, and Charles Wesley agreed, 
that "ordination was separation." Charles made it 
plain that, while he did not propose to quarrel with 
his brother, still less was it his intention to aid and 
abet in any disloyalty to the Church of England. 
Further correspondence centred, in some measure, on 
the line, 

"Heathenish priests and mitred infidels," 

penned by Charles in the heat and ignorance of youth, 
but now repudiated by him. "That juvenile line of 
mine," he wrote, " I disown, renounce, and with shame 
recant. I never knew of more than one ' mitred 
infidel,' and for him I took Mr. Law's word." John, 
however, replied, " Your verse is the sad truth. I see 
fifty times more of England than you do ; and I find 
few exceptions to it." 

These expressions smack more of Dissent even than 
the illegitimate ordinations. They prove that the per- 
secution to which Wesley and his followers had been 
subjected for half a century had produced its inevitable 
result, that the iron had entered into his soul. But 
these sentiments occur in a private letter. Publicly, 


Wesley still exerted himself to keep up the fiction of 
union. There could, however, be no real union when 
Wesley himself usurped episcopal iunctions> and the 
bishops did their best to unchurch his proselytes. 

In the year before his death, Wesley wrote to a 
certain prelate a letter of remonstrance, in the course 
of which he remarked : " The Methodists in general, 
my lord, are members of the Church of England. 
They hold all her doctrines, attend her services, and 
partake of her sacraments. They do not willingly do 
harm to anyone, but do what good they can to all. 
To encourage each other herein, they frequently spend 
an hour in prayer and mutual exhortation. Permit 
me then to ask, Cui bono ? For what reasonable end 
would your lordship drive these people out of the 
Church ? Are they not as quiet, as inoffensive, nay, 
as pious, as any of their neighbours ? Except, perhaps, 
here and there, a harebrained man who knows not 
what he is about. Do you ask, ' Who drives them out 
of the Church ? ' Your lordship does, and that in the 
most cruel manner. They desire a licence to worship 
God after their own conscience. Your lordship refuses 
it, and then punishes them for not having a licence. 
So your lordship leaves them only this alternative, 
' Leave the Church, or starve.' " 

The cry for separation seems to have come mainly 
from the local preachers. This was probably for two 
reasons. They were less under Wesley's inspiration 
and control, and they were more oppressed than the 
travelling preachers by constant false relations with 
the clergy. An omen of what was likely to occur was 
presented in the case of Lady Huntingdon's Connec- 
tion. Two of her chaplains, both clergymen of the 


Church of England, voluntarily embraced Dissent, in 
order that they might avail themselves of the Act of 
Toleration, and thus escape the peddling interference 
of a parish priest. Whilst he lived, however, the 
shadow of Wesley's great name, his unique authority, 
and his patriarchal age, conspired to stave off the 
unwelcome catastrophe of avowed schism. 

Wesley was a charming old man. One who knew 
him well thus describes his appearance and manners : 
"The figure of Mr. Wesley was remarkable. His 
stature was low ; his habit of body, in every period 
of life, the reverse of corpulent, and expressive of 
strict temperance and continual exercise; and his 
appearance, till within a few years of his death, 
vigorous and muscular. His face, for an old man, 
was one of the finest we have seen. A clear, smooth 
forehead ; an aquiline nose ; an eye the brightest and 
most piercing that can be conceived, and a freshness 
of complexion scarcely ever to be found at his years 
and impressive of the most perfect health, combined to 
render him a venerable and interesting figure. Few 
have seen him without being struck with his appear- 
ance; and many who have been greatly prejudiced 
against him have been known to change their opinion 
the moment they were introduced into his presence. 
In his countenance and demeanour there was a cheer- 
fulness mingled with gravity; a sprightliness, which 
was the natural result of an unusual flow of spirits, 
and yet was accompanied with every mark of the 
most serene tranquillity. His aspect, particularly in 
profile, had a character of acuteness and penetration. 

"In dress, he was a pattern of neatness and sim- 
plicity. A narrow plaited stock ; a coat with a small 


upright collar; no buckles at his knees; no silk or 
velvet in any part of his apparel ; and a head as white 
as snow, gave an idea of something primitive and 
apostolic, while an air of neatness and cleanliness was 
diffused over his whole person." 

John Wesley put on immortality on the second of 
March 1791, when he was in the eighty-eighth year 
of his age. He died as he had lived ; and among the 
last things he said were the words, twice uttered, 
" The best of all is, God is with us." He was buried 
in the ground behind the chapel in City Road, London ; 
and when the Rev. Mr. Richardson, who officiated, 
came to the sentence, " Forasmuch as it hath pleased 
Almighty God to take unto Himself the soul of our 
dear brother," he read instead, "of our dear father." 
The effect was instantaneous. The crowd, hitherto 
tearfully silent, broke into loud weeping. Charles 
had gone before. He died in 1788. 

So much has been said, and so many illustrations 
given, of Wesley's character that a formal summary is 
hardly needed. If, however, a summary be demanded, 
it may be found in a phrase of Horace — " tenax pro- 
positi." Wesley held fast his purpose, — the moral and 
spiritual regeneration of society, — and to that purpose 
he was ready to sacrifice, and did practically sacrifice, 
all. His absolute devotion to a noble cause was the 
root of many eccentricities, and tinctured his views 
of men and things in a way that sometimes detracts 
from the reverence due to his lofty disinterestedness. 
When he believed that Dr. Coke was as free from 
ambition as from covetousness, he talked of an ideal 
Dr. Coke. The real Dr. Coke, Wesley's friend, was as 
ambitious a man as ever lived. Others were as un- 


justly disparaged. Wesley had a great aptitude for 
abstract knowledge, — he was, beyond question, one of 
the best scholars of his day, 1 — but he either did not 
understand, or would not accommodate himself to, 
ordinary human nature. He attempted to fit people 
into his own groove, to engulf them in his own person- 
ality. The result was that his course was strewn with 
broken loves and severed friendships. Even Charles 
was at last reduced to a condition of semi-estrangement. 

But Wesley was a glorious being. His zeal was 
matchless ; and he accomplished, by prodigies of 
mental and physical effort, a vast and necessary work. 
The physic may have been nasty, — those fits, especi- 
ally, — but Methodism arrested national decay and 
infused new life into Christianity. In the political 
sphere, though Wesley's direct intervention was not 
happily conceived, it is in every way probable that the 
influence of that high Tory over the masses did much 
to prevent an English analogue of the French Revolu- 
tion by absorbing into the ranks of Methodism those 
who would naturally have been its leaders. The eman- 
cipation of the slaves, and, after that, other emancipa- 
tions were the reflexion and the fruit of that inward 
emancipation of which Wesley was the preacher. The 
Evangelical movement, and the Oxford movement, in 
the Church of England, were both founded on the 
principle that religion was something other, something 
higher, than an aspect of civil life. This principle, 
which in the eighteenth century had been fairly lost, 
Wesley and his companions were bold enough to 

For this all English-speaking men, irrespective of 

1 Dr. Johnson testifies that he could talk on any subject. 


creed, have cause to be thankful. To take a single 
illustration — may we not trace the abolition of the 
duel in England to Wesley's influence ? In every 
other European country the obligations of honour 
prescribe this reckless mode of settling certain dis- 
putes. Why is England exempt? The episode of 
the fashionable tailor is not an adequate explanation. 
The true reason is that the English conscience, as 
remodelled by Wesley, will not tolerate the making of 
widows and orphans on a frivolous pretext. However, 
Wesley was not precisely a saint. He was too active, 
too full of fight, to merit that description. But he was, 
pre-eminently, a man. 







have much pleasure in announcing an 
important new Series, under the title of 


The Volumes composing it will constitute, when their 
issue is complete, a valuable conspectus of the origin 
and progress of the most prominent movements that 
have taken place in theology, philosophy, and the history 
of intellectual development from Buddha to the present 

Each Volume will record the initiation and trace the 
Evolution of some particular phase of human thought 
and culture. The various subjects have in every case 
been assigned to writers who have made a special study 
of them. The Publishers, therefore, confidently expect 
that the successive Volumes will present the latest and 
most reliable information on the topics whereon they 
treat, and that the Series as a whole will be found to 
afford a valuable guide to the consecutive study of the 
leading Epochs in the moral, intellectual, and spiritual 
development of humanity. 

For List of Volumes see following pages. 



The First Bursting of the Fetters of Ignorance and Superstition. 
By Arthur Lillie. M.A., London. 


The Moral Awakening of the Western World. By Rev. J. T. 
Forbes, M.A. , Edinburgh. 


A Contrast and Appreciation. By Professor D. G. Ritchie, 
M.A., University of St. Andrews. 


The Last and the Greatest Age of Stoicism. By W. Keith 
Leask, M.A., Aberdeen. 


By Professor B. B. Warfield, D.D., Princeton. 


By P. De Lacy Johnstone, M.A.(Oxon.). 

By Rev. A. C. Welch, B.D. 

Monasticism and its Reform. By Professor J. Herkless, 
D. D. , University of St. Andrews. 


By R. Latta, Ph.D., D.Sc, University College, Dundee. 

By Rev. J. C. Carrick, B.D. 

By Oliphant Smeaton, M. A., Edinburgh. 


Showing how Roger Bacon prepared the way for Francis 
Bacon, Lord Verulam. By Rev. W. J. Couper, M.A 


By G. M'Hardy, D.D. 




By Professor T. M. Lindsay, D.D., F.C. College, Glasgow. 


By A. D. Innes, M.A.(Oxon.), London. [Now ready. 


By Principal Salmond, D.D., F.C. College, Aberdeen. 


By Professor W. CLARK, LL.D., D.C.L., Trinity College, 

By Professor J. Iverach, D.D., F.C. College, Aberdeen. 


By James Sime, M.A. 

ByF. J. Snell, M.A.(Oxon.). 


Including Baumgarten and the Science of ^Esthetics. By 
Rev. A. P. Davidson, M.A. 

By Professor J. Orr, D.D., Edinburgh. 

By Professor W. H. Hudson, M.A., Stamford College, 
University of California. 


By Professor R. M. Wenley, D.Sc, Ph. D., University of 

By Professor A. Martin, D.D., New College, Edinburgh. 


By Professor R. Mackintosh, D. D. , Lancashire Independent 
College, Manchester. 


By C. Sarolea, Ph.D., Litt. Doc, University of Edinburgh. 



Jfor Bible Clasaes anfc> private £tu£>ent9. 



'/ name specially the admirable Handbooks for Bible Classes issued by 
T. & T. Clark of Edinburgh, They are very cheap, and among them are some books 
unsurpassed in their kind.'— Or. W. Robertson Nicoll in The British Weekly. 

Professor Marcus Dods, D.D, 


James Maoqreoor, D.D. 
Exodus. 2 Vols. 

Principal Douglas, D.D. 
Joshua. Judges. 

each 60 

each 45 

Professor J. G. Murphy, LL.D 

Professor Marcus Dods, D.D. 
Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. 

Principal Douglas, D.D. 
Obadiah to Zephanlah. 

Professor T. M. Lindsay, D.D. 


Cents. Professor T. M. Lindsay, D.D. Cents - 

60 St. Luke. 2 Vols. 

(Vol. I.) 60 

(Vol. II.) 46 

George Reith, D.D. 
St. John. 2 Vols. each 60 

Professor T. M. Lindsay, D.D. 
Acts. 2 Vols. each 46 

Principal Brown, D.D. 
Romans. 60 

James Macgregor, D.D. 
Qalatians. 46 

Professor J. S. Candlish, D.D. 
Epheslans. 45 

Professor A. B. Davidson, D.D. 
Hebrews. 75 







Jambs Stalker, D.D. 
The Life of Christ. 
The Life of St. Paul. 

(Large-type Editions, $1.50 each), 
Alexander Whyte, D.D. 
The Shorter Catechism. 




Professor J. 8. Candlish, D.D. 
The Christian Sacraments. 45 

The Christian Doctrine of Qod. 45 
The Work of the Holy Spirit. 45 
The Biblical Doctrine of Sin. 45 

Norman L. Walker, D.D. 
Scottish Church History. 45 

Rev. W. D. Thomson, M.A. 
The Christian Miracles and the 
Conclusions of Science. 60 

George Smith, LL.D., F.R.G. 8., O.I.B. 
History of Christian Missions. 75 

Archibald Henderson, D.D. 
Palestine: Its Historical 
Geography. With Maps. 75 

Professor T. M. Lindsay, D.D. 
The Reformation. 60 

Rev. John Macpherson, M.A. 

The Sum of Saving Knowledge. 45 

The Confession of Palth. 60 

Presbyterlanism. 45 


Professor Binnie, D.D. 
The Church. 

Professor T. B. Kilpatrick, D.D. 
Butler's Three Sermons on 
Human Nature. 46 

President Hamilton, D.D. 
History of the Irish Presby- 
terian Church. 60 

Rev. W. Scrymgeour, M.A. 
Lessons on the Life of Christ. 76 

A. Taylor Innes, M. A., Advocate. 
Church and State. 75 

Rev. J. Feather. 
The Last of the Prophets- 
John the Baptist. 60 

Rev. W. Fairweather, M.A. 
Prom the Exile to the Advent. 60 

Professor J. Laidlaw, D.D. 
Foundation Truths of Scripture 
as to Sin and Salvation. 46 

Rev. L. A. Muirhead, B.D. 
The Times of Christ. 60 

Rev. J. P. Lille y, M.A. 
The Principles of Protestantism. 76 

Edinburgh: T. & T. CLARK, 38 Oeorge Street.